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Malaria – The Myths And The Medicine


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Lishe Husted




Malaria is a disease that has plagued humanity for centuries. It is caused by the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, which transmit the malaria parasite into the bloodstream. Once infected, individuals can experience a range of symptoms, including fever, chills, headaches, and body aches. While malaria is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness, there are many misconceptions that surround this disease.


In this article, we will explore some of the common myths surrounding malaria and shed light on the reality of this disease. By debunking these misconceptions and providing accurate information, we hope to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of malaria and its prevention and treatment.


It is important to note that while this article aims to provide comprehensive information, it is not a substitute for medical advice. If you suspect that you or someone you know has malaria or require further information, please consult a healthcare professional.


Myth: Malaria is a Contagious Disease


One common misconception about malaria is that it is a contagious disease, meaning it can be transmitted from person to person. However, this is not the case. Malaria is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a person, it injects the malaria parasite into their bloodstream.


It is important to understand that malaria cannot be spread through casual contact with an infected individual. Unlike diseases such as the common cold or flu, malaria cannot be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or touching. It requires the specific mosquito species to transmit the parasite.


This myth stems from the fact that in some rare cases, malaria can be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, or congenital transmission from mother to fetus during pregnancy. These modes of transmission, however, are not typical and account for a very small percentage of malaria cases.


To prevent the spread of malaria, it is crucial to focus on mosquito control measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and personal protection measures like wearing long sleeves and using insect repellents. Additionally, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of infected individuals are essential in preventing further transmission.


Myth: Malaria can be transmitted through casual contact


Another prevalent myth surrounding malaria is the belief that it can be transmitted through casual contact with an infected individual. This misconception often leads to unwarranted fear and stigma surrounding those who have contracted malaria.


It is important to understand that malaria cannot be spread through casual contact, such as hugging, shaking hands, or sharing food and drinks. As mentioned earlier, malaria is transmitted through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. The parasites that cause malaria live and multiply in the mosquito’s salivary glands, not in the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.


While it is true that malaria can be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplantation, or from mother to fetus during pregnancy, these modes of transmission are not applicable to casual daily interactions with an infected individual.


This myth likely arises from confusion or misinformation about the transmission of other infectious diseases. It is important to differentiate between the modes of transmission for each disease, as the prevention strategies and risks may vary. For malaria, the focus should be on mosquito control and personal protection measures, rather than treating infected individuals as contagious.


By dispelling this myth and providing accurate information, we can help reduce the stigma associated with malaria and ensure that communities understand the true nature of its transmission.


Myth: Malaria is only prevalent in tropical regions


One of the most common misconceptions about malaria is that it is only prevalent in tropical regions. While it is true that malaria is more commonly found in warmer climates, it is not limited to tropical areas alone.


Malaria can be found in numerous countries across the globe, including regions with temperate climates. In fact, historically, malaria was endemic in many parts of Europe and the United States. However, through effective public health measures, these regions have successfully eliminated or significantly reduced the transmission of the disease.


Climate plays a significant role in the transmission of malaria, as it affects the breeding and survival of the Anopheles mosquitoes. However, there are various factors that contribute to the prevalence of malaria, such as population density, poverty levels, availability of healthcare, and mosquito control measures.


It is important to note that travelers visiting malaria-endemic areas, whether tropical or non-tropical, are at risk of contracting the disease. It is always advisable to seek guidance from healthcare professionals or travel clinics before visiting these regions. They can provide information on preventive measures such as anti-malarial medications, mosquito repellents, and bed net usage.


By dispelling the myth that malaria is limited to tropical regions, we can raise awareness and ensure that people take necessary precautions regardless of their travel destination. Understanding the true reach of malaria is crucial in preventing its transmission and protecting individuals from this potentially life-threatening disease.


Myth: Malaria can be cured with over-the-counter medications


A common misconception surrounding malaria is that it can be easily cured with over-the-counter medications. However, this is not the case. Malaria is a complex disease caused by parasites, and its treatment requires specific prescription medications.


Over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers and fever reducers may temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms associated with malaria, such as fever and body aches, but they do not effectively treat the underlying cause of the disease.


Treating malaria requires the use of anti-malarial drugs, which are prescribed by healthcare professionals. The choice of medication depends on various factors, including the type of malaria parasite, the severity of the infection, and the geographic location of the patient.


It is crucial to receive proper medical diagnosis and treatment for malaria in order to effectively eliminate the parasites from the body. Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to complications and, in severe cases, can be life-threatening.


Moreover, self-medicating with over-the-counter drugs can contribute to the development of drug-resistant strains of malaria parasites. This is a significant global health concern and highlights the importance of using proper prescription medications under the guidance of healthcare professionals.


If you suspect that you have malaria or have been exposed to malaria-infected areas, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional will conduct the necessary diagnostic tests and prescribe appropriate medications based on your specific circumstances.


By dispelling the myth that malaria can be cured with over-the-counter medications, we can emphasize the importance of proper diagnosis, treatment, and the responsible use of anti-malarial drugs. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial in effectively managing and treating malaria.


Myth: Malaria only affects humans


There is a common myth that malaria only affects humans, but this is not entirely true. While humans are the primary host for the malaria parasite, it can also infect and affect other animal species.


Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which has different species that can infect various animals, including primates, birds, and rodents. These animals serve as reservoir hosts for the parasite, meaning they can harbor and transmit it to mosquitoes, perpetuating the transmission cycle.


For example, malaria parasites that infect birds have been documented in various parts of the world. Similarly, some non-human primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, are susceptible to specific types of malaria parasites.


While the majority of malaria cases occur in humans, it is essential to remember that animals can play a role in maintaining the transmission of the disease. This understanding is important for studying the ecology and transmission dynamics of malaria, as well as implementing effective control measures.


However, it is important to note that the strains of malaria parasites that infect animals are typically different from those that infect humans. Therefore, the risk of human infection from animal reservoirs is generally low.


Preventing and controlling malaria primarily focuses on human populations and reducing the number of infected mosquitoes. This is achieved through interventions such as mosquito control measures, bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of infected individuals.


By dispelling the myth that malaria only affects humans, we gain a better understanding of the complexity of the disease and its potential impact on other animal species. This knowledge can guide research efforts, aid in malaria control strategies, and contribute to a more comprehensive approach in combating this global health issue.


Myth: Mosquito nets are not effective in preventing malaria


There is a common misconception that mosquito nets are not effective in preventing malaria. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the use of mosquito nets is one of the most effective methods of preventing malaria transmission.


Mosquito nets, especially those treated with insecticide, create a physical barrier that prevents mosquitoes from coming into direct contact with individuals while they sleep. This is crucial, as the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria are typically active during the night.


The insecticide-treated nets, also known as long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of malaria infection. These nets not only provide a physical barrier but also kill or repel mosquitoes that come into contact with the insecticide on the net’s surface.


Multiple studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of LLINs in preventing malaria transmission. In areas where these nets have been widely distributed and properly used, there has been a noticeable decrease in malaria cases and related deaths.


However, it is important to note that mosquito nets must be used correctly to maximize their effectiveness. They should be properly hung, covering the entire sleeping area, and checked regularly for any holes or damage that could allow mosquitoes to enter.


Moreover, it is crucial to prioritize the distribution of mosquito nets to the most vulnerable populations, such as young children and pregnant women, who are at higher risk of severe complications from malaria.


Mosquito nets, along with other preventive measures like indoor residual spraying and the use of insect repellents, form a comprehensive approach to malaria prevention. By combining these strategies, we can significantly reduce the transmission of the disease and protect individuals from malaria infection.


We must debunk the myth that mosquito nets are not effective and promote their widespread use in malaria-endemic areas. By doing so, we can make great strides in controlling and ultimately eliminating malaria as a public health threat.


Myth: Malaria cannot be prevented through vaccination


For a long time, there has been a common belief that malaria cannot be prevented through vaccination. However, recent advancements in research have shown promising results in the development of a malaria vaccine.


Malaria is a complex disease caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Developing a vaccine against malaria has presented unique challenges due to the complexity of the parasite and its ability to evade the immune system.


However, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the pilot implementation of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, also known as Mosquirix™. It is the first-ever vaccine to receive a positive scientific and regulatory recommendation for use against malaria.


Mosquirix™ is designed to provide partial protection against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite prevalent in Africa. While it is not 100% effective, studies have shown that the vaccine can reduce the risk of severe malaria in children by up to 36% and the risk of severe anemia by 29%.


It is important to note that the malaria vaccine is not meant to replace other preventive measures but rather be used in conjunction with them. It complements strategies such as the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and prompt treatment of malaria cases.


Additional research is also underway to develop vaccines against other species of malaria parasites. Although the development of a globally effective malaria vaccine remains a complex and ongoing process, significant progress has been made, and the success of Mosquirix™ shows promising potential for future vaccines.


By dispelling the myth that malaria cannot be prevented through vaccination, we create awareness and hope for a future where a more effective vaccine can be developed and deployed to prevent the transmission of this devastating disease.


Myth: Malaria is a minor health issue


There is a prevailing myth that malaria is a minor health issue, particularly in regions where the disease is endemic. However, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Malaria is a significant global public health concern, with over 200 million cases reported annually.


Malaria is responsible for a substantial number of illnesses and deaths worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, including young children and pregnant women. In fact, malaria remains one of the leading causes of mortality among children under the age of five in endemic regions.


Aside from the immediate health impact, malaria has broader socio-economic consequences. It places a significant burden on healthcare systems, hampers economic productivity, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in affected communities.


Malaria-related costs, including treatment, prevention measures, and productivity loss, can be crippling for individuals, families, and entire countries. The economic burden further exacerbates existing inequalities and slows overall development progress.


In addition to the direct impact on human health and the economy, malaria also poses a threat to tourism, investment, and social stability in affected regions. The presence of malaria can deter visitors and potential investors, hindering socioeconomic growth and the overall well-being of communities.


Given the scale of the malaria burden, governments, international organizations, and communities must continue to prioritize efforts to control and eliminate malaria. This includes strategies such as increasing access to healthcare services, distributing insecticide-treated bed nets, implementing indoor residual spraying, promoting early diagnosis and treatment, and investing in research and development for new tools and interventions.


By dispelling the myth that malaria is a minor health issue, we can raise awareness about the devastating impact it has on individuals, communities, and societies at large. Understanding the true magnitude of malaria is crucial in garnering support for comprehensive malaria control and elimination efforts worldwide.


The Reality: Understanding Malaria


Understanding the realities of malaria is crucial in combating this global health issue. Malaria is a complex and serious disease caused by parasites of the Plasmodium genus and transmitted through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.


Contrary to common misconceptions, malaria is not a contagious disease that spreads through casual contact between individuals. It is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites, making mosquito control measures and personal protection strategies essential in preventing transmission.


Malaria is not limited to tropical regions alone. While it is more prevalent in warmer climates, it can be found in various countries throughout the world. Travelers should be aware of the risks and take necessary precautions when visiting malaria-endemic areas, regardless of their climatic classification.


Self-medication with over-the-counter drugs is not an effective treatment for malaria. Proper diagnosis and the use of specific anti-malarial medications prescribed by healthcare professionals are crucial in managing the disease and preventing complications.


Malaria does not exclusively affect humans. While humans are the primary host for the parasites, some animal species can also be infected. However, the risk of transmission from animal reservoirs to humans is generally low.


Dispelling the myth that malaria cannot be prevented through vaccination is important. The development of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine marks a significant milestone, providing partial protection against the disease and reducing severe malaria cases in children.


Malaria is not a minor health issue. It is a major global public health concern, affecting millions of people each year and causing significant morbidity, mortality, and economic burden. Addressing malaria requires comprehensive approaches that involve not only healthcare interventions but also efforts in poverty reduction, education, and infrastructure development.


By understanding the reality of malaria, we can break down misconceptions and focus on effective prevention and control strategies. This includes the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, access to prompt diagnosis and treatment, and ongoing research for new tools and approaches. Together, we can make significant progress in combatting malaria and improving the health and well-being of affected communities.


The Medicine: Prevention and Treatment of Malaria


When it comes to malaria, prevention is key. Implementing effective prevention strategies can greatly reduce the risk of malaria infection and its related complications. Some crucial preventive measures include:

  • Mosquito control: Mosquitoes are the primary vectors of malaria. Implementing measures such as indoor residual spraying and larval control can help reduce mosquito populations and their ability to transmit the disease.
  • Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs): Sleeping under mosquito nets treated with insecticide is highly effective in preventing mosquito bites during sleep, which is when Anopheles mosquitoes are most active.
  • Personal protection: Wearing clothing that covers the arms and legs, using insect repellents on exposed skin, and staying in air-conditioned or screened areas can greatly reduce the risk of mosquito bites.
  • Chemoprophylaxis: For individuals traveling to areas with a high risk of malaria, taking anti-malarial medication as prescribed by healthcare professionals is crucial. These medications help prevent infection if bitten by an infected mosquito.

In addition to prevention, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of malaria cases are essential in minimizing the impact of the disease. Malaria symptoms can vary but often include fever, chills, headache, and body aches. If you experience these symptoms and have been in a malaria-endemic area, seek medical attention immediately.


A healthcare professional can conduct diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of malaria parasites in your blood. If diagnosed with malaria, the appropriate anti-malarial treatment will be prescribed. The choice of medication depends on factors such as the type of malaria parasite, the severity of the infection, and the geographical location of the patient.


It is critical to complete the full course of prescribed medication as instructed, even if the symptoms improve before the treatment is finished. Failing to take the full course of medication can lead to treatment failure and the development of drug-resistant strains of malaria.


In some cases, severe forms of malaria can occur, leading to complications such as organ failure or damage. Prompt medical attention and specialized treatment are crucial in managing severe malaria cases and reducing mortality rates.


Research and development efforts continue to focus on finding new and effective drugs, vaccines, and tools to combat malaria. Additionally, ongoing surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation programs help track the spread and impact of the disease, guiding prevention and control strategies.


By combining effective prevention measures, prompt diagnosis, and appropriate treatment, we can reduce the burden of malaria and work towards its ultimate elimination.




Malaria is a complex and serious disease that continues to impact millions of people worldwide. Dispelling common myths and improving our understanding of this disease is crucial in effectively preventing and managing malaria.


Through this article, we have addressed various misconceptions surrounding malaria, such as the belief that it is contagious or only prevalent in tropical regions. We have highlighted the importance of proper prevention methods, including the use of mosquito nets, insecticide spraying, and personal protection measures.


We have also discussed the significance of prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment for malaria. Seeking medical attention and using prescribed anti-malarial medications are essential in ensuring successful outcomes and reducing the risk of complications.


Additionally, we have debunked the belief that malaria is a minor health issue. Malaria presents a significant public health concern, affecting individuals, communities, and economies. Effective prevention and control strategies are necessary to combat the widespread impact of the disease.


While progress has been made in the development of a malaria vaccine, ongoing research and efforts are needed to improve prevention and treatment options. The collaboration of governments, healthcare professionals, researchers, and communities is vital in eliminating malaria as a global health threat.


By understanding the realities of malaria and dispelling myths, we can empower individuals and communities to take proactive steps in preventing the disease. Education and awareness play an essential role in combating malaria and reducing its impact on vulnerable populations.


Let us work together to promote accurate information, support research, and advocate for effective prevention and treatment strategies. By doing so, we can strive towards a future where malaria is no longer a major health burden, and individuals can live healthy and malaria-free lives.