Malaria has a wide spectrum of symptoms. After the bite by the infected mosquito occurs, it can take between seven and 30 days (average is seven to 15 days) before symptoms start (incubation period).
Health care professionals classify malaria as uncomplicated or complicated (severe).
The most common symptoms are fever and chills, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and general weakness and body aches.
The classic description of a malaria attack (which is rarely observed), would be a six- to 12-hour period of cold and shivering alternating with fever and headaches and then a stage of sweating and tiredness (sometimes divided into the cold and hot stage).
As these symptoms are very nonspecific, it is important to evaluate if the patient has risk factors for malaria (usual travel in endemic areas).
Complicated or severe malaria
This occurs when malaria affects different body systems.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease and that does not spread from person to person (except in pregnancy as noted below) but spreads in certain circumstances without a mosquito.
This occurs rarely and is usually found in a transmission from a pregnant woman to an unborn child (congenital malaria), by blood transfusions, or when intravenous-drug users share needles. Except for the above conditions, malaria is not considered a contagious person to person.