Each year 1000 – 2000 people catch the disease abroad, mostly from visits to sub-Saharan Africa, and then return to the UK with the infection.
Malaria is transmitted by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. It can also be passed to patients by blood transfusion from an infected donor.
Even when sensible precautions are taken to prevent infection e.g. antimalarial tablets, mosquito nets, etc people who travel to malarial areas still risk becoming infected. Malaria usually causes chills and fever and certain types of Malaria can kill, so we must take every precaution to stop it being passed on by a blood transfusion.
Symptoms of the disease usually occur within a few weeks or months of being bitten by an infected mosquito but sometimes they can be delayed for more than six months.
In fact, people who have been frequently exposed to Malaria, through long-term residence in a malarial country, may even become partially immune and they may carry the parasite for years without being unwell. Also they may not become ill if they are re-infected.
It is possible to test donors four months after they return from a malarial area but, if a donor knows that they have had malaria they will have to wait three years before their test. The test looks for evidence of antibodies to the malaria parasite. A negative test means that your blood donation can be used.
A positive test may have implications for your health, in which case we will contact you to explain the results and advise whether you need to do anything further.