Malaria is a significant health risk to all people who travel in malaria-endemic areas of the world. Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, headaches, malaise and sweats, all of which may occur at different intervals following exposure. Malaria also may be associated with anemia and jaundice.
Some strains of malaria may cause kidney failure, coma and death, although with proper and early treatment, death can be prevented.
Depending upon the type of malaria, symptoms can develop as early as eight days, or as long as several months after the first exposure.
What causes Malaria?
Malaria is due to a parasite that is transmitted by the bite of the infected female Anopheles mosquito. While less common, malaria can be transferred through blood transfusions or from an infected mother to a fetus.
How can I avoid contracting Malaria?
The first step you should take is to find out if you will be traveling in a country that is malaria-endemic. Then talk with your physician or nurse practitioner to decide what preventive medications and precautions you should take.
Because of nocturnal feeding habits of mosquitos, malaria transmission occurs primarily between dusk and dawn. We suggest the following precautionary measures be taken to reduce contact with mosquitoes:
- stay in well screened areas
- use mosquito nets
- wear clothes that cover most of your body - long sleeves, trousers
- use insect repellents that contain DEET 30% on exposed skin; DEET repels mosquitoes. 30% DEET gives 4-6 hour, if less than 3 years of age, use DEET 10-15% on clothes only, if more than 3 years of age use DEET 30% on clothes only
- use a flying insect spray which contains pyrethrum in living and sleeping quarters at night; permethrin kills mosquitoes.
Despite the personal protective measures (long sleeves and pants, insect repellent, and netting), and medication to help protect against malaria, travelers to malaria risk areas should be informed that no measure guarantees complete protection against malaria.
Malaria can be effectively treated early in its course, but delay may result in a serious or even fatal outcome. Travelers should seek medical attention immediately if fever develops during or after a visit to an area where malaria exists.
Which medications should I use to prevent malaria?
Currently there are four medications that are used to prevent malaria. If you are traveling to a malaria risk area, your doctor or nurse practitioner will discuss which one of these medications will be the right one for you to take.