Malaria is tropical mosquito-borne disease which causes almost 1 million deaths per year worldwide, and each year the number of cases grows. Mosquitoes carry the parasite Plasmodium infecting people with it as they bite. Malaria is a leading cause of death and a great concern for those areas affected: South America, Central America, Asia and Africa. Though Malaria no longer occurs in Britain or Europe we can put ourselves at risk of catching the disease when we holiday in affected humid tropical and sub-tropical regions, even if we are only there for a few days.
If you are planning on holidaying in nice hot climate check whether you will need Malaria tablets for your trip.
Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium. The parasite lives in the human body and can be passed from an infected person to a healthy person by an Anopheles mosquito’s bite. Once inside the mosquito the parasites develop in the intestine and salivary glands and the mosquito becomes a carrier of disease and can potentially give it to every person they bite. The parasite is potentially fatal to humans as it lives in the liver and enters the blood where it infects red oxygen carrying blood cells. Eventually, when enough blood cells have been infected, the parasite begins to attack the body causing the red blood cells to burst.
Mosquito-borne Malaria is the most widespread method of infection; however it can be passed on direct from human to human through sharing needles or blood transfusions.
There are four different types of Malaria, some are fatal (Plasmodium falciparum – the most severe and prevalent kind) and some are not, however any suspicion of disease should always be fully investigated and treated as quickly as possible.
Common symptoms of Malaria are very similar to those of flu; an infected person may have fever and feel achy or tired. Diarrhoea is another very common symptom of Malaria, but can also be caused due to parasites or faecal matter in water and food.
Symptoms will normally appear 1-2 weeks after infection however if you experience this combination of symptoms up to a year after travel you should seek medical care.
Anti-malarial tablets go a long way in preventing infection, however Malaria can still occur even if you have taken preventative medication, so do not ignore any signs of disease if you have been in a region where Malaria is present.
Malaria symptoms could be confused for flu, however Malaria symptoms come in waves lasting 2-3 days.
You may experience symptoms for a few days, and these may go away and come back again. If this is the case seek immediate medical care! Tell your doctor it may not be flu as you have recently travelled to a malaria affect area. With the correct treatment you will feel better after a few days and symptoms will disappear after a few days.
Left untreated the disease can cause complications such as:
Malaria can only be caught if you visit an area in which it is prevalent. The only 100% guarantee is avoiding travelling in malaria zones, however this would mean missing out some of the world’s most interesting and beautiful countries.
Protecting yourself from malaria is important and is as easy as taking an anti-malarial tablet for a few days before and after your holiday and everyday for the duration of your stay. Other prevention measures include bite avoidance, for example, covering up as much of your body as possible between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are more prone to bite; and using an insect repellent.
Talk to your doctor about malaria prevention 6 weeks before you plan on going away.