The potentially deadly disease, Malaria, has an average incubation period of 10 days to a month. In rare instances, the disease can be limited to a week or even as long as a few years. There are a few factors that affect the length of incubation including the type of parasite and the preventative drug administered (if any).
When an individual is initially infected with the malaria parasite they will not initially show any symptoms. Instead, they will feel normal from seven days up to several years before any sign of the disease appears. During this time, the malaria parasite is rapidly multiplying which is the beginning of malaria symptoms and known as the malaria incubation period.
The Anopheles or female mosquito is the species that inflicts the wound and transfers the parasite to the host. The male species does not bite and transfer malaria to humans. Plasmodium falciparum has the shortest incubation period but tends to be the most common and severe of the parasites.
On the other hand, Plasmodium malaria, Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale typically have a much longer incubation period but are significantly less dangerous. These three parasites have a tendency to grow in the liver and cause symptoms after the incubation period while a portion remains dormant and can become active up to 4 years following the initial infection.
Once the parasite comes out of hibernation, it begins multiplying and eventually invades the red blood cells causing the host to become sick. These sleeping variants are the specific cause of relapses commonly found with these parasite variants. The antimalarial drug, Prophylaxis, can slow the incubation rate by a few weeks or months and also prevent the disease from spreading.
Unfortunately with such long incubation periods, misdiagnosis of malaria symptoms has become common. Incubation periods of malaria vary greatly depending on the parasite and preventative medication administered. A lack of initial detection is the biggest reason for misdiagnosis of the disease.