Malaria World Map of Estimated Risk

Travelling to a tropical region is a fantastic life experience, but it isn’t without its risks. Taking preparatory measures to protect against indigenous illnesses in such areas is crucial. Among these are typhoid, dengue fever, yellow fever and, of course, malaria.

Those who know anything about malaria will likely have heard about its formidable symptoms (headache, fever, diarrhoea, sickness and muscular pain to name a handful), the fact that it can cause lasting health complications and, if not treated, even be fatal.

The condition is transmitted by mosquito bites, and caused by a parasite (called plasmodium). There are five main types which cause the disease to occur in people, of which the P. falciparum variety is the most aggressive. Once someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite, it spreads through the body by taking over blood cells, before eventually attacking the vital organs and central nervous system.

Generally, treatment is very effective when the infection is caught early. However, the harmful nature of the disease, combined with the likelihood that emergency health facilities may not be accessible in more remote areas, makes preventative treatment (what we term ‘prophylaxis’) essential.

There are several different types of antimalarial, and the one you use depends on the area you’re visiting.

Areas affected by malaria

Below, we’ve put together a malaria world map based on the estimated risk of malaria as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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(The data in this malaria world map is correct as of July 2018)

It should be noted that even where the CDC state that the risk of malaria is ‘none’ (such as in Argentina) or there is no data available (Algeria) the disease may still be present in remote areas of the country.

Below you can find a map displaying the different levels of risk present in different countries, according to Fit For Travel, as of July 2018. (However, you should still visit the Fit For Travel site for detailed information, as risk classifications vary in different areas within countries, and can change.)

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Where is malaria most common?

According to WHO, Nigeria had the highest number of estimated cases of any country, with 57,300,000 in 2016; the number of reported confirmed cases in Nigeria at health facilities was 9.3 million, and there were a little over 3 million confirmed cases at community level.

Mali had the highest number of estimated cases per head: 7.9 million cases, out of a population of 17.8 million. (However, this figure should not be taken to mean that 44% of people were estimated to have the infection in 2016, as in many cases one person may have contracted the infection on several occasions.)

Malaria risk by country

Using data from WHO, below we have compiled a list of countries where malaria is thought to be present, along with how many estimated cases there were in 2016.

To provide a sense of the scale of the risk, we have also included population data for each country from the CIA World Factbook.

Despite there being different levels of risk in different countries, the threat of the disease should always be taken seriously when visiting any malarious region, be it low, moderate, variable or high risk.

Again, this data was correct as of July 2018; but you should still check the CDC and NHS Fit for Travel sites for the most up-to-date information.

Africa: Estimated malaria cases and risk

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Caribbean, Central and South America: Estimated malaria cases and risk

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Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East: Estimated malaria cases and risk

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South and East Asia and Pacific: Estimated malaria cases and risk

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Is malaria prevalence rising or falling?

According to WHO, the number of malaria cases between 2000 and 2014 declined globally by 37%. However, in their World Malaria Report published in 2017, they noted that there was a slight rise between 2015 and 2016, from 211 million to 216 million.

They also note that Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by the disease. The African continent accounts for almost 9 in 10 of global malaria cases.

When global rates were declining between 2000 and 2014, the number of cases in Africa increased. Rising temperatures and climate change have been cited as possible causes of the rise observed in African countries, as warmer weather enables plasmodium-carrying mosquitoes to survive at higher altitudes in these regions. (Source: Treated, 2018 updated)

Julie Hwang