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Everything You Should Know About Malaria

Posted in Travel Health 16 Jun, 2015

Remember that time Cheryl came down with malaria on the X Factor? It just goes to show malaria is alive and kicking; even though you may think it only happens in the jungle or the wild African savannah. Make sure you know about malaria before you book your holiday. I'm going to tell you about it now - please pay attention because this could save your life. I'm not even kidding.

What Is Malaria?

It's a parasite that gets into your blood stream through mosquito bites. Only the female mosquito transmits the disease. In 2013, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stopped predicting a global swine-flu death pandemic and estimated that 198 million cases of malaria occur worldwide. 198 MILLION. That's really shocking.

Where is Malaria Active?

You must check your destination to find out if it's affected by malaria. There are 97 countries dealing with it, which is far too many to list here, but it's prevalent in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most dangerous spot. Malaria is a constant high-risk problem there. Check the WHO website for an up-to-date list.

How To Stay Safe

  • You will most likely need to take medication to prevent malaria. Make sure you see your GP - it's important and could save your life. You may need to take the meds in advance, during your stay, and afterwards to be safe.
  • The evil female mosquito bites between dawn and dusk so sleep under an insecticidal mosquito net, and keep your feet in the bed.
  • Use insect repellent and then some more insect repellent. Re-apply it during the day and night.
  • Cover your skin with long sleeves and trouser legs.

At-Risk Groups

Everyone is at risk but some travellers are particularly vulnerable to malaria complications. This includes young children, pregnant women and folk with weakened immune systems. Think twice about travelling to malaria risk areas if you fall into one of these groups.

What Are The Symptoms?

Malaria symptoms are much like the flu. Unless the traveller declares they have been abroad, a malaria diagnosis is not easy to uncover. Prompt treatment is necessary because after the flu symptoms patients can develop severe complications. Here are the main symptoms. Not everyone will experience them all:

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Muscle pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • High temperature
  • Vomiting

It can take 7-30 days for malaria symptoms to show up, and it's even longer for a certain type of malaria called P. vivax. P. vivax can show up a year after you've been infected.

I'll Be Fine - I'm Not Canoeing Down the Amazon

Most malaria cases are found in people who have visited friends and family. People who are more relaxed about their trip than intrepid gap-year students and Amazon trekkers who have taken the anti-malaria medication. But your mum can't stop you getting malaria no matter how much she fusses over you.

Not many Brits get malaria, but you should be prepared and protect yourself. Malaria is declining on a global scale but it's still a serious illness that can be fatal.

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