A very important and deadly parasitic infection seen in many countries around the world, caused by one of the following species of Plasmodium: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and in a few areas, P. knowlesi. Malaria has huge public health implications, causing in the range of 2 million deaths annually worldwide. All forms of malaria are transmitted through the bite of a female mosquito (Anopheles species).

Malaria can definitely be transmitted through blood transfusion, so blood banks are committed to ensuring that donors are free of disease before donation. However, there is no FDA-approved malaria screening test for U.S. blood donors. So, all U.S. blood donors are asked about traveling to or living in areas at high risk of malaria. Traveling for more than 24 hours to an area deemed “high-risk” by the Centers for Disease Control (these are known as malaria-endemic areas) results in a one year deferral from blood donation, while those who live in a country with malaria-endemic areas for more than five years are deferred for three years. Someone who actually has malaria is deferred for three years after recovery.

The lengthy deferrals are due to the prolonged asymptomatic period that can be seen in infected patients, but in most cases, donors are probably deferred longer than necessary. The U.S. FDA has published their policy regarding donors at risk for transmitting malaria

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