Malaria is a tropical parasitic disease that 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.
Avoiding mosquito bites
- Use insect repellents containing DEET on skin and clothing.
- Use screened accommodation and keep windows and doors closed.
- Use a mosquito net, preferably impregnated with insecticide.
- Wear long sleeves and trousers between dusk and dawn. It may help to wear wrist and ankle protectors soaked in DEET.
- Use a vaporizing mat or coil to minimize mosquitoes in living accommodation or stay in air-conditioned accommodation.
The UK Travel Vaccination Service stocks a wide range of insect nets and mosquito repellents at our London Clinics.
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 UK Travel Vaccination Service clinics. Anti-malarias are not available on NHS prescription; some medications are available without a prescription, but Mefloquine, Malarone and Doxycycline require private prescriptions.
The UK Travel Vaccination Service 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:
- Chloroquine 300mg weekly. Start 1-2 weeks before travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Chloroquine 300mg weekly and Proguanil 200mg daily. Start 1-2 weeks before travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Mefloquine 250mg weekly. Start 2-3 weeks before travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Malarone. One tablet daily 24-48 hours prior to travel until 7 days after leaving the area.
- 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.
Recognizing malaria illness
Flu type symptoms, fever, diarrhea and joint pains after the 1st week in a malarias 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.