Malaria is an illness caused by the Plasmodium parasite. Most often, the female Anopheles mosquito transmits the disease. The parasite enters the bloodstream following a mosquito bite. There are more than 100 types of Plasmodium, but only five types infect humans. The severity of the illness varies depending on which type of Plasmodium parasite causes the infection. First, the parasite multiplies in the liver, then enters and destroys red blood cells. Symptoms are similar to the flu, but malaria can be long-term and fatal.
P. falciparum causes a severe form of malaria that carries the highest risk of death; infected mothers can also pass this parasite to their babies, called congenital malaria. Although mosquitoes are the most common mode of transmission, malaria can also be transmitted in the same ways as other blood-borne illnesses, which includes through organ transplants, blood transfusions, and shared needles and syringes.
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