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Difference between malaria and flu

Malaria vs Flu

Malaria is the most dreaded fever especially during monsoons. It is caused by parasites from the plasmodium family namely- p. falciparum, p. vivax, p. ovale and p. malariae. Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous among the four as it often leads to death. Malarial infection in humans is caused when a female anopheline mosquito transfers plasmodial sporozoites (a form of the malarial parasite) from its salivary gland during a bite. This parasite passes through a series of changes in its form. It first invades the liver cells. Liver cells die bursting and release parasites which have multiplied inside and are now ready to invade new RBCs (red blood corpuscles). In the RBCs, they consume most of the hemoglobin and grow larger in size to occupy most of the cell. During a fever spike, the RBCs breakdown to release the parasites in large numbers; they are again taken up by mosquitoes during a bite. The parasite undergoes further transformation and travels to the salivary gland; it stays there to get transferred to another person during the next mosquito bite.

Flu is also called as viral fever or influenza. Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It is a contagious disease transmitted through three ways. First and the most important way of transmission is air-borne. Infected persons spread viral agents through droplet infection while coughing or sneezing. It is a very rapid way of transmission. Second is a direct transmission from contaminated objects to hand and then nose or mouth; that is by touching infected objects like table, plate etc and then eating with the unclean hands or cleaning nose etc. Third is by directly coughing or sneezing near other individuals.

Signs and symptoms of malaria are fever, severe headache, arthralgia (joint pains) and abdominal pain. The most important symptom of malaria is fever with spikes coming on along with chills and rigors (shivering) at regular intervals. Seizures are mostly associated with falciparum malaria. Since there is excessive breakdown of RBCs in a short span of time, there will be reduction in hemoglobin, enlargement of liver and spleen. A high grade continuous fever with chills along with severe body ache is typical of viral fever. Running nose, cough, nasal congestion, redness and watering of eyes are accessory symptoms. Along with above symptoms there is extreme tiredness and fatigue due to fever.
Investigation for malaria is a peripheral smear for detecting the malarial parasite on slides. Blood for smear should be collected during fever spike for better results. For influenza, the diagnosis is done purely clinically.

The treatment for malaria is by anti-malarial drugs like chloroquine, quinine. Intravenous administration of anti-malarial drugs is done in case of cerebral malaria. Complications like acute kidney failure, acute lung oedema are seen often if not treated early. The flu if left untreated may progress to pneumonia, but is rare. It is most commonly a self-limiting infection, rarely requiring more than symptomatic relief for the fever and body ache.

For influenza, prevention can be done by influenza vaccine. Wearing face masks while treating infected patients in hospital reduces transmission drastically. Washing hands before meals also reduces the chances of spread. Anti-viral drugs are used in case symptoms are severe. No vaccine is available to prevent malaria yet.


Malaria spread depends on mosquitoes, while flu is based on contamination from person to person. Flu can be prevented by maintaining hygiene and good immunity. Malaria can be prevented by eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes like pools of stagnant water at construction sites, near plants, open gutters, etc.

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