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Malaria

Malaria is the world's most important tropical parasitic disease and kills more people than any other infectious disease, excluding tuberculosis.

While there are four species of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is by far the most lethal type, responsible for the majority of malaria deaths.

Anyone travelling to a country where malaria is present may potentially contract the disease.

Malaria is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to catch malaria.

Prevention

Avoiding mosquito bites

  1. Use insect repellents containing DEET on skin and clothing.
  2. Use screened accommodation and keep windows and doors closed.
  3. Use a mosquito net, preferably impregnated with insecticide.
  4. Wear long sleeves and trousers between dusk and dawn. It may help to wear wrist and ankle protectors soaked in DEET.
  5. Use a vaporising mat or coil to minimise mosquitoes in living accommodation or stay in air-conditioned accommodation.

The Health Station stocks a wide range of Insect Nets and Mosquito Repellents - Travel Goods

Anti - malarial Drugs

Anti - malaria drugs fit into five main regimes. Medication required will vary according to destination. Up to date malaria advice can be obtained at The Health Station and/or the Malaria Reference Laboratory who can be contacted by telephoning: 0891 600350. Anti-malarials are not available on NHS prescription; some medications are available without a prescription, but Mefloquine, Malarone and Doxycycline require private prescriptions.

The Health Station offers anti-malarial drugs.

In summary, the five main regimes of anti-malarial drugs are as follows (adult doses). However, you should always obtain individually tailored advice:

  1. Chloroquine 300mg weekly. Start 1-2 wks before travel until 4 wks after leaving the area.
  2. Chloroquine 300mg weekly AND Proguanil 200mg daily. Start 1-2 wks before travel until 4 wks after leaving the area.
  3. Mefloquine 250mg weekly. Start 2-3 wks before travel until 4 wks after leaving the area.
  4. Malarone. One tablet daily 24-48 hrs prior to travel until 7 days after leaving the area.
  5. Doxycycline 100mg daily. Start 2 days prior to travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.

Generally, anti-malarial tablets are well tolerated. However, they can cause stomach upsets, visual disturbances and headaches. These side-effects can be reduced if medication is taken after food and with plenty of water. It is also very important that you read and follow the instructions included with the medication you have purchased.

If you suffer from any liver, heart or kidney problem, psoriasis, epilepsy or previous depression, or are likely to be pregnant or breast feeding then please ask for advice from a doctor prior to taking any anti-malaria tablets.

Serious reactions are rare but these may include: severe anxiety, depression, fits, hallucinations and palpitations. Stop medication but seek professional advice immediately to obtain an alternative.

Recognising malaria illness

Flu type symptoms, fever, diarrhoea and joint pains after the 1st week in a malarious region and for up to a year after your return home may be malaria. If you become unwell, you should seek medical attention promptly and you may need a blood test.

Some Statistics about Malaria

  • Globally, there are around 300 - 500 million cases of malaria per year, causing over 1 million deaths.
  • Malaria is a public health problem in more than 90 countries, which are inhabited by 40% of the world's population.
  • Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds and 3,000 children under five years old every day - this far exceeds the mortality rate from AIDS.
  • Approximately 30,000 European and North American travellers contract malaria annually.
  • Every year around 2,000 cases of malaria occur in the UK in travellers returning from countries where there is a risk of contracting malaria.
  • In the UK, visits abroad have increased by over a quarter since 1995.
  • Last year over 5 million trips from the UK were made to countries where travellers were at risk of contracting malaria.