10 facts on malaria
Updated November 2016
About 3.2 billion people – nearly half of the world's population – are at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438 000 malaria deaths. Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 60% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2000. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths.
Fact 1: Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoesMalaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquito vectors. Of the 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly.
Fact 2: Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of malariaApproximately 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were an estimated 214 million malaria cases and some 438 000 malaria deaths. Young children, pregnant women and non-immune travellers from malaria-free areas are particularly vulnerable to the disease when they become infected.
Fact 3: Children under 5 are at high risk of malariaIn areas with high transmission of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death. More than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. In 2015, about 305 000 African children died before their fifth birthdays.
Fact 4: Malaria mortality rates are fallingIncreased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen globally by 60% among all age groups, and by 65% among children under 5.
Fact 5: Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of malaria prevents deathsEarly diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. Access to diagnostic testing and treatment should be seen not only as a component of malaria control but as a fundamental right of all populations at risk.
Fact 6: Emerging artemisinin resistance is a major concernParasite resistance to artemisinin, the core compound in WHO-recommended combination treatments for uncomplicated malaria, has been detected in 5 countries of south east Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. However, artemisinin-based combination therapies remain effective in almost all settings, as long as the partner drug in the combination is locally effective.
Fact 7: Sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets protects against malariaLong-lasting insecticidal nets provide personal protection against mosquito bites. They can be used as protection for people most at risk of malaria, such as young children and pregnant women in high malaria transmission areas. The nets are effective for 2-3 years, depending on the model and conditions of use. Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of children sleeping under an insecticide-treated net in sub-Saharan Africa increased from less than 2% to approximately 68%.
Fact 8: Indoor residual spraying is the most effective way to rapidly reduce malaria transmissionThe full potential of indoor residual spraying is obtained when at least 80% of houses in targeted areas are sprayed. Indoor spraying with insecticides kills the mosquito vector and is effective for 3–6 months, depending on the insecticide used and the type of surface on which it is sprayed. Longer-lasting forms of insecticides are under development.
Fact 9: Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malariaPregnant women are at high risk of dying from the complications of severe malaria. Malaria is also a cause of spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, stillbirth and severe maternal anaemia, and is responsible for about one third of preventable low-birth-weight babies. For pregnant women living in moderate-to-high transmission areas, WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester.
Fact 10: Malaria causes significant economic losses in high-burden countriesIn high-burden settings, malaria can trap families and communities in a downward spiral of poverty, disproportionately affecting marginalized and poor people who cannot afford treatment or who have limited access to health care.
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