Sepsis and Malaria

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that affects millions of people. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 229 million cases of reported malaria worldwide in 2019, and over 400,000 people died. Those who died of malaria were mostly children in Africa.

Malaria is a parasitic disease,  spread by infected mosquitoes. There are four types of malaria, but Plasmodium falciparum(P.falciparum) is the most deadly. The other types are P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale. Although malaria is most frequently found in many countries and territories in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, it also affects people in Europe and the United States. In 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported several cases of “locally acquired” malaria, which means it was not contracted elsewhere by a traveler and diagnosed when they returned home.

People who contract malaria are at risk of developing sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your body’s response to an infection damages vital organs and, often, causes death. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Malaria. 2024.

Updated February 16, 2025.


More About Malaria


You can only get malaria through an infected mosquito bite, specifically the Anopheles mosquito.


Malaria symptoms develop between 5 to 10 days after the bite. People infected with malaria may not notice the first few signs right away. They may chalk them up to just not feeling well or a mild virus. Symptoms include :

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure, particularly when getting up from lying or sitting)

If left untreated, other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Anemia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment for malaria depends on the type of malaria you have and what country you were in when you contracted it. Over the years, some strains of malaria have become resistant to certain medications, mostly by geographical area.

Medications taken in pill or liquid form may be used for mild malaria, but once it has developed into a more severe form, intravenous (IV) treatment is needed.

The medications give are called antiparasitic medications. Just as antibiotics fight bacterial infections, antiparasitics fight parasitic infections. If you are taking the oral medications, it is essential that you take ALL the medication prescribed, even if you feel better before they are finished. By not finishing the prescription, you risk a relapse and the infection may become resistant to the medication.


If you are traveling outside of the country, you should verify if the country you are visiting has a malaria risk. If so, you can take medications that can prevent the disease.You may get this information from your doctor, a travel clinic, or local health department. The rule of thumb is medication should start two weeks before you travel, continued throughout the trip, and then for four weeks after returning home.

You should also actively try to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. This means wearing long sleeves and pants if you are in affected area. Light-colored clothing is also helpful. Use approved mosquito repellant on any exposed skin and you may spray it on your clothing as well. Children have specific requirements so be sure to carefully read the instructions of the repellant and speak to your doctor or the staff at the travel clinic.

Since mosquitoes bite most at night, mosquito nets can help protect you when you sleep. Insecticide sprays before bed are also helpful.

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