Malaria has been eradicated in the United States and other developed countries since the early 1950s. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that malaria is the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Christopher Plowe, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland, about malaria and his work to develop a vaccine.
What is malaria? According to Dr. Plowe, malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is "larger and more complicated than a virus or bacteria," which kills more than one million people a year.
How is it spread? According to Dr. Plowe, malaria is spread and contracted through infected mosquitoes. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, malaria parasites multiply in your liver and then move to your bloodstream, multiplying again inside red blood cells, causing the cells to burst. The toxins released after the red blood cells burst make you sick.
What are the symptoms? Dr. Plowe says flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills, headaches and body aches are common symptoms of malaria.
Who is at risk? It is mainly children who die from malaria, Dr. Plowe says. In malaria-risk countries, 15 to 25 percent of children under the age of 5 die from the disease, he says. Dr. Plowe notes that people with HIV are also at a greater risk of contracting the disease. According to the CDC's website, malaria-risk countries include "large areas of Central and South America, Hispaniola (the Caribbean island that is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Oceania."
How do you prevent malaria? While there is no vaccine to prevent malaria yet, Dr. Plowe and others are working to develop one. Dr. Plowe spends time in Africa conducting vaccine trials and field research. People living in malaria-risk countries can prevent getting mosquito bites and becoming infected by wearing insect repellant and sleeping under bed nets treated with insecticide. Visitors to these countries can prevent getting the disease by taking anti-malarial drugs before, during and after their visit.