At least a million people throughout the world die from Malaria every year.

Therefore, not a disease to be taken lightly!

Malaria can be caused by four different malaria parasites. For doctors, the biggest concern is the Plasmodium Faciparum parasite, which is the killer of the four species, especially in Africa. The female Anopheles mosquito transmits the parasites. She is most active from dusk to dawn and loves to have a midnight feast on her unsuspecting host! She sits with her back legs up in the air and doesn’t warn you of her intentions as she stalks you from below.

She doesn’t buzz round your ears like our common or garden mozzies! She likes certain odours, small children and pregnant women. It takes only one bite from her to inject the parasite into your body. So you can see, she’s one nasty customer!

Malaria occurs in Africa (as far south as Kruger Park and almost to St. Lucia), in South and Central America, India, South East Asia and even in parts of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the South Pacific. The risk varies from country to country, from season to season and from town to town and even from year to year. On top of this the parasite is very crafty and has developed resistance to certain medications e.g. Chloroquine and in some areas even to Mefloquine.

So how do you feel if you have malaria? LOUSY!  Symptoms can develop about a week after being bitten and even up to three to six months later. You may have flu-like symptoms with fever, chills, shivers, headaches and aching muscles. However, some people and especially children may start with nausea, vomiting, cough and/or diarrhoea. Severe Malaria can cause jaundice and anaemia, fits, confusion, kidney failure and ultimately death.

These are the three pillars of Malaria prevention:

1)      Prevent mosquito bites:

 

This can be done by using an effective spray that contains enough DEET (30 – 50%) like Tabard or Peaceful Sleep. A lot of other preparations on the market have not been adequately tested (that includes homeopathic anti-malarials!) and should be avoided.

Use insecticide-impregnated bed nets, spray the bedroom as the sun goes down and wear long sleeved clothing, as well as shoes with socks. The best would be to stay indoors between dusk and dawn, but who wants to sit inside in the heat and miss out on a braai under the stars! Pregnant ladies and children under 5 years – DO NOT GO INTO A MALARIA AREA! You are putting yourself and your unborn baby and children at risk.

2)        Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor or Travel Health Practitioner:

Unfortunately no vaccine is available. In South Africa you have a choice of three different anti-malarial tablets. Due to some unpleasant side effects anti-malaria tablets have received bad publicity. It is important that your doctor knows your medical history as well as your lifestyle, before deciding which anti-malarial he should prescribe.  It is also possible to change from one medication to another if unpleasant side effects are experienced. Here again you need to be guided by a professional.

It is therefore unwise to buy over the counter!

The choices of anti-malarial tablets are Larium (or Meflium which is the generic), Doxicycline (an antibiotic) and the new one Malanil (best on the market but has a nasty side effect on your travel budget!)  Each has pros and cons and are taken differently, so this is a subject on it’s own! Remember, it is important to finish the prescribed course of anti-malaria tablets.

 

3)      See your doctor immediately if you have a flu-like illness any time after returning from your travels(even as long as six months after!)

Unfortunately, even if you take medication and preventive action, there is still a possibility of getting Malaria. Your motto should be:

 

DON’T DELAY

SEE YOUR DOCTOR STRAIGHT AWAY!

 

Here are some useful travel websites for those who are interested:

www.who.int                          This is the World Health Organization website.

www.cdc.gov/travel               Very comprehensive USA website including travel.

www.fit-for-travel.com          A German website with English version especially for travelers.

www.doh.gov.za                   South African Dept of Health.