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What is Endemic Malaria?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Endemic malaria is malaria that remains naturally and consistently present in a region because there are plentiful vectors for the disease, ensuring it will continue to be passed through society. Countries where malaria is endemic are primarily located in the tropics, and tend to be developing nations with limited public health infrastructure for fighting the disease. Fighting malaria worldwide has included a focus on addressing endemic malaria with the goal of eradicating it from these regions to eliminate natural reservoirs of the disease.

Malaria becomes endemic for several regions. This parasite requires mosquitoes of specific species as part of its lifecycle, and thus cannot become endemic in regions where these species are not supported. The tropics tend to be very hospitable to mosquitoes because of the warmth and ample supplies of standing water. In regions where mosquito control is limited, it can be difficult to prevent infected insects from biting humans and passing the infection on.

If the human population uses malaria prophylaxis, these bites are not a problem, as the parasites cannot survive in their bodies. Inconsistent or nonexistent use of prophylaxis, however, creates an avenue for malaria infections to set in, and infected patients will further the lifecycle of the parasite, with mosquitoes feeding on them and picking up infected blood, thus perpetuating the disease. People also travel, bringing the parasite with them as they go and creating an endless supply of new vectors.

Efforts at controlling endemic malaria include attempts to limit mosquito populations and contact between insects and humans, such as using pesticides, screening homes and beds to prevent the insects from getting inside, and dosing humans with compounds known to cause infertility in mosquitoes, thus preventing the insects from breeding. Provision of affordable malaria prophylaxis and treatment is another measure for addressing this problem. Travelers to regions with endemic malaria are usually advised to take prophylactic drugs so they do not carry the virus home with them.

In nations where the public health infrastructure is spotty and poorly supported, endemic malaria is difficult to fight. There may be regions where people have the virus under control, but in others it may be widespread and very common. As people travel between regions, they bring the parasite back and forth with them, creating new flareups of disease. Consistent and even malaria control policies also have to cross borders, as a rigorous program in one nation does little good if the country next door has an ineffectual program for malaria control in place.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Apr 18, 2011

If all people need to do is put screens in their windows and around their beds, why don't they do it? It's a very cheap method, the governments of these countries should be supplying these things.

I'm sure one reason is unavailability, but I also think that some people don't use malaria prophylaxis pills on purpose. A friend of mine said that it damages the liver. I don't know how or why, but maybe this is not the solution to endemic malaria we are looking for.

By candyquilt — On Apr 16, 2011

Malaria is endemic in Africa too isn't it? I had heard about a businessman who traveled to Africa and returned infected with the malaria virus. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with him for a while since malaria is so uncommon here. He died from it unfortunately. I guess it's a good example of what can happen if we travel unprotected.

By ysmina — On Apr 16, 2011

I think that malaria is endemic in some places because the people are not well educated about what malaria is and how to protect themselves.

I studied abroad in India last year and there we spoke to a lot of natives. I had received my malaria shot so I was not worried. I was shocked about how some villagers talked about malaria though. They spoke of it as though it was not an important thing. They also mentioned some natural remedies they were using to protect themselves.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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