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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Communicable  Diseases Subjects A-Z
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Disease Reporting

Malaria

(Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium ovale)

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a microscopic parasite that affects red blood cells. There are four species of malaria parasite: Plasmodium falciparum, P. malariae, P. vivax, and P. ovale. The severity of disease depends on the species of Plasmodium causing the infection. The parasite is transmitted by a bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Malaria can also be transmitted from mother to fetus, via blood transfusions, organ transplant, or use of shared needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood.

People usually become ill with malaria within 7 days to 30 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Infection with malaria parasites may range from absent of symptoms to severe illness including death. Initially, symptoms include fever, chills, sweats, headaches, nausea and vomiting, body aches, and general malaise. Severe symptoms may include neurologic abnormalities, severe anemia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, decrease in blood platelets, low blood glucose, cardiovascular collapse and shock, and acute kidney failure.

Most of the malaria cases in the United States are reported from returning travelers and immigrants. In Wisconsin, an average of 12 cases of malaria was reported annually between 2002 and 2009. All illnesses were reported from people who traveled to a malaria endemic country.

General information

Epidemiology and disease trends

Graph Malaria cases 2002-2009

Information for health professionals

This is a Wisconsin Disease Surveillance Category II disease: 
Report to the patient's local public health department electronically, through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System (WEDSS), by mail or fax using an Acute and Communicable Disease Case Report F-44151 or by other means within 72 hours upon recognition of a case.
Information on Communicable Disease Reporting

CDC Malaria Case Report form

Wisconsin case reporting and public health follow-up guidelines: Malaria EpiNet

Diagnosis and treatment in the United States (Exit DHS) 

Laboratory guidance
Laboratory Criteria For Confirmation

  • Microcopy detection of malaria parasites in thick or thin peripheral blood films by microscopy, OR
  • Detection of species specific DNA in samples of peripheral blood by PCR

Note: Detection of circulating malaria-specific antigens using rapid diagnostic test (RDT) is only a screening test and malaria species need to be confirmed by another test.

Additional resources

Malaria disease prevention (Exit DHS)  
Malaria references and resources (Exit DHS)  

Contacts

Wisconsin Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies

Diep Hoang Johnson Vectorborne Disease Epidemiologist
Wisconsin Division of Public Health 
Bureau of Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response
(Phone 608-267-0249)  (Fax 608-261-4976)

Last Revised: March 04, 2014