Malaria history and symptoms
Malaria history and symptoms On the Web
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The hallmark symptom of malaria is fever, which commonly occurs in paroxysms, separated by fever-free time intervals. The classical but rarely observed malaria attack lasts 6-10 hours, and it consists of a cold stage, hot stage, and sweating stage. Other common symptoms of malaria include chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, night sweats, flu-like symptoms, and myalgia. In the presence of a paroxysmal fever, travel history to a country where malaria is endemic is an important alert for the diagnosis. Most importantly, malaria symptoms must be distinguished as to whether they reflect an uncomplicated or a severe course of infection. While uncomplicated infection is a benign process, severe malaria causes organ damage and is considered a medical emergency.
In the presence of a paroxysmal fever, travel history to a country where malaria is endemic is an important alert for the diagnosis. Following the infective bite by the Anopheles mosquito, a period of time ranging from 7 to 30 days goes by before the first symptoms appear.
- Cold stage: where the patient experiences rigors and chills
- Hot stage: characterized by fever, headaches, and children may experience seizures
- Sweating stage: characterized by sweats, return to normal temperature with a feeling of fatigue
- "Tertian" fever: paroxysms occur every second day, caused by "tertian" parasites:
- "Quartan" fever: paroxysms occur every third day, caused by the "quartan" parasite:
- Night sweats
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Abnormal posturing (children)
Less Common Symptoms
Distinguishing Uncomplicated vs. Severe Symptoms
Malaria may either present as an uncomplicated infection or as a severe infection. While the former follows a benign course, the latter is characterized by target organ damage. More importantly, recognition of the severity of malarial symptoms is important because severity directly alters the management plan and the treatment options for patients with malaria.
The following table compares symptoms of uncomplicated malaria and severe malaria.
Attack lasts 6-10 hours consisting of 3 stages
Malaria complicated by organ damage. It is considered a medical emergency that requires prompt hospitalization.
- Mandell, Gerald (2010). Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's principles and practice of infectious diseases. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. ISBN 0443068399.
- ("Malaria". Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nov. Feb 8 2010. Retrieved Jul 24 2014. Check date values in: