Julie Berry, the voice of the London Underground Piccadilly Line, offers a short introduction to malaria. More episodes.


What is Malaria?

Malaria is a serious tropical disease spread by mosquitoes. If it isn’t diagnosed and treated promptly, it can be fatal. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness.

Malaria can be prevented and treated using antimalarial medicines. In some cases, an individual may be prescribed emergency standby treatment for malaria before they travel.

How can you protect yourself from it?

It is vital to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, covering your arms and legs, and using a mosquito net. Check whether you need to take malaria prevention tablets, and, if you do, make sure you take the right antimalarial tablets at the right dose and finish the course.


Malaria is a global disease, with an estimated 219 million cases per year, according to the latest report from the World Health Organisation. The disease is caused by a one-celled parasite called a ‘Plasmodium’. These parasites are transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite, referred to as the ‘vector’. Only the ‘Anopheles’ genus of mosquitos can transmit the disease.

Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking, chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. If not promptly treated, the infection can become severe and may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and even death.

The term ‘Malaria’ comes from the Italian ‘bad air’. The disease was originally known as ‘Marsh Fever’.

Marsh Fever and Malaria.png

Marshes were known for their ‘bad air’

Malaria is said to be one of the oldest diseases in human history. Whilst this is true, scientific developments have only begun relatively recently. The parasite responsible for malaria was discovered in the 1800s with British Scientist Sir Ronald Ross discovering that mosquitos transmitted the disease in 1987.

We are now at a crossroads.

Significant progress made against the disease has been made. As positive stories of reduced mortality rates hit our headlines, we’re beginning to lose focus and ground has been lost. The World Malaria Report 2018 highlights the need to get ‘back on track’ with our global response.

To achieve the lofty goal of malaria eradication, greater funding is required as well as a refined focus, including developing our technical arsenal.

How much do you know about malaria?

Test your knowledge of the disease with my Malaria Quiz.