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Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by protists (a type of microorganism) of the genus Plasmodium. The protists first infect the liver, then act as parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases progressing to coma or death. The disease is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions in a broad band around the equator, including much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Five species of Plasmodium can infect and be transmitted by humans. Severe malaria is largely caused by P. falciparum while the disease caused by P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae is generally a milder form that is rarely fatal. The zoonotic species P. knowlesi, prevalent in Southeast Asia, causes malaria in macaques but can also cause severe infections in humans. Malaria is prevalent in tropical regions because the significant amounts of rainfall, consistently high temperatures and high humidity, along with stagnant waters in which mosquito larvae readily mature, provide them with the environment they need for continuous breeding. Disease transmission can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites by distribution of mosquito nets and insect repellents, or with mosquito-control measures such as spraying insecticides and draining standing water.
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