Malaria... not all of us possess enough medical knowledge to explain what kind of disease it is, however, most of us are fully aware of the danger it bears in itself. It is well-known that prevention is better than cure and it is perfectly true about the malaria prevention. The malaria prevention does not include only medical procedures, like vaccination, for instance, but some related knowledge as well. In this respect, it is necessary to take several steps, and some of them even before going on your vacation.
Step 1. Find out if the place you are planning to visit belongs to the ones with the malaria risk. Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa have the greatest risk of both: getting malaria and dying of the infection. However, travelers to some other countries should also be on their guard. Malaria is transmitted in:
1. Large areas of Central and South America.
2. The island of Hispaniola (includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
4. Asia (including the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and the Middle East)
5. Eastern Europe.
6. The South Pacific.
Step 2. If the country you are going to visit belongs to the list of countries with the malaria risk, it is very reasonable to find out the amount of malaria in the area to be visited. Most malaria transmissions occur in rural areas, although malaria occurs in urban areas in many countries. Low altitudes with warm temperatures allow larger populations of infective mosquitoes. The transmission is generally higher in Africa, south of the Sahara, than in most other areas of the world; in 2002, seventy three percent of imported malaria cases among the U.S. and foreign civilians happened with people who traveled to Africa.
Step 3. It is also vitally important to know that the amount of malaria depends on the time of the year. Seasons with more rainfall and higher temperatures will have more malaria transmission than colder, drier seasons. However, in the most tropical and semi-tropical countries, the transmission may take place even during cooler months or periods of less rainfall. Thus, it is not excessive to shift your schedule depending on the season.
Step 4. Malaria is an extremely dangerous disease, however, there is no need to become totally desperate, since people, who are traveling to malaria risk areas, can almost always prevent this potentially deadly disease, if they correctly take an effective antimalarial drug and follow the measures to prevent mosquito bites. What measure does the malaria prophylaxis include? They are the following:
- Visit your family's healthcare center, a travel clinic, a city or county public health department four to six weeks before traveling. Such a visit will allow you to get the necessary travel information, vaccinations, and antimalarial drug prescriptions (there is no vaccine against malaria).
- Purchase your antimalarial drugs before traveling overseas! In some countries (including those with malaria risk), drugs may be counterfeit ("fake") or substandard (not made according to the standards). Such drugs may not be effective. For details and specific warnings see Counterfeit and Substandard Antimalarial Drugs
- Strictly follow the prescriptions!
- Try to minimize the nighttime exposure to mosquito bites. Since the mosquito that transmits the malaria bites at night, travelers, who are frequently out of doors between the dusk and the dawn, will be at greater risk for malaria. For this purpose, especially, if it is impossible to remain indoors, use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.
In addition, the malaria prevention includes the usage of the insect repellent (bug spray) when you go outdoors. Apply the insect repellent to skin not covered by clothing. Use the insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide) for the best protection. While using it, read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
Note that if the malaria prevention measures failed to work for some reasons, seek immediate medical attention. Remember that, if not promptly treated, the infection with Plasmodium falciparum, the most harmful malaria parasite, may cause coma, kidney failure and death.
However, keep in mind that it is always possible to protect yourself from the disease by taking malaria prevention measures so that nothing will be able to ruin your vacation and harm your health.