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What Factors Affect the Spread of Malaria?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Malaria is a highly infectious disease spread primarily through mosquitoes. The five strains of malaria are caused by an infection by Plasmodium parasites, which are most commonly transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Given the nature of its transmission, several factors affect the spread of malaria. These include climate, geographical location, and environmental conditions. Malaria's spread is also affected by the availability of vaccines and infectious disease control.

The main determinant of the spread of malaria is the disease's prevalence in a given area. Mosquitoes will often bite infected individuals, taking in the parasites along with the victim's blood. The parasites, the most dangerous among which is Plasmodium falciparum, then develop within the mosquito and find their way into their host's saliva. The next time the infected mosquito bites a person, it will transmit the parasites in its saliva, resulting in a new infection. This creates a persistent cycle in malaria-prone areas.

The disease is endemic in several locations across the globe. Countries along the equator are at higher risk for malaria, with sub-Saharan Africa being the most infected region. Roughly 90 percent of the world's malaria-related casualties occurs in this area, a significant number given that the World Health Organization estimates that the disease causes nearly 1 million annual deaths. Other areas at risk for malaria include South America and equatorial regions of Asia. Frequent travel to these areas greatly increases an individual's risk of being infected with the condition, which boosts the risk of spreading the disease elsewhere.

Climate plays a major role in the spread of malaria, as certain weather conditions allow for increased reproduction rates in mosquitoes. Warm areas with occasional to moderate rainfall tend to harbor more mosquitoes than drier areas, as the insects lay their eggs in stagnant waters. Countries that experience monsoon rains may also see mosquito population growth in between wet seasons, when accumulated rainfall is allowed to sit still over an extended period of time.

The spread of malaria is also greater in areas where disease control methods are not readily available. These methods include mosquito nets, vaccines, and insect repellents. Educational material, such as guides on keeping homes mosquito-free, is another major factor in preventing malaria. Areas where medication and education on how malaria spreads are unavailable suffer higher infection rates, which lends to the disease's persistence.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991376 — On Jun 16, 2015

Malaria doesn't really exist. It is just a myth started by the government to scare people into not revolting. You've fallen for the lies of the corrupt.

By anon329081 — On Apr 07, 2013

@feruze: I think you either misheard or were misinformed. Now the statement do Africans not get infected with malaria is wrong. Africans can get infected and malaria is most prevalant and deadly in Africa.

It is partially right. People with the blood disorder Sickle Cell Anemia are said not to get infected with malaria. Now this disorder is most common among Africans and African-Americans.

Maybe that's what the person meant. Not all Africans but the ones with Sickle Cell do not contract malaria.

By bear78 — On Apr 20, 2011

Is it true that Africans do not get infected with malaria?

I heard about this but couldn't believe it because I thought that malaria is seen a lot in Africa. But maybe their genes have adapted to it or something.

Does anyone know about this?

By ysmina — On Apr 18, 2011

@alisha-- That is a really good point! This was mentioned in my course, that the incubation period of malaria makes it easier for new infections to happen.

I think there is one particular strain of malaria that takes even 10 months to develop symptoms. That's a really long time! That means that an individual might infect others unknowingly in that time. A good thing is that it has to be transmitted by blood, so people can't be infected just by being around each other.

But I can imagine hospitals in some of these countries causing a lot of malaria infections. My professor also mentioned that blood with the virus can infect for 16 days in a lab environment. So medical workers might get infected a lot.

By discographer — On Apr 16, 2011

I think as it can happen with any disease, malaria can also be spread if people with malaria are treated at hospitals and proper care is not taken. If the same syringes are used for multiple patients or if someone with malaria gives blood to another, it would be passed on.

I don't know what the symptoms of the disease are but if it goes unnoticed for a while, that might also make the spread of it easier, wouldn't it?

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