The recent stories in the press about singer Cheryl Cole contracting malaria whilst on holiday in the African country Tanzania have highlighted the risks of malaria. Malaria is a serious condition that is common in some tropical countries. It is important that you take measures to reduce your risk of infection when you travel to these areas.
What is malaria?
It is common in tropical countries such as parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that lives in mosquitoes, the parasite can be passed to humans from a mosquito bite.
Anti-malarial medicationThe risk of getting malaria is greatest if you do not take anti-malarial medication or do not take it properly. People who take last minute holidays and those visiting friends or relatives abroad have been shown to be the least likely to take anti-malarial medication.
According to the NHS Choices website, if you are travelling to an area with a risk of malaria, your doctor will recommend you take antimalarial tablets to prevent you from becoming infected. The antimalarial tablets that you are prescribed will be based on the following factors:
- where you are going
- medical history, including any drug allergies
- relevant family medical history
- current medicines
- any problems with antimalarial medicines in the past
- your age
- whether you are pregnant
There are five medicines used to prevent malaria:
1) Atovaquone plus proguanil (also known as Malarone)
2) Chloroquine (also known as Avloclor tablets and Nivaquine syrup)
3) Doxycycline (also known as Vibramycin-D)
4) Mefloquine (also known as Lariam)
5) Proguanil (also known as Paludrine)
SymptomsSymptoms of malaria usually appear 10-15 days after you are bitten. However, depending on the type of parasite you are infected with, it can take a year for symptoms to show. The most common symptom of malaria is a high fever and includes the following symptoms:
- sweats and chills
- generally feeling unwell
- muscle pains
Note: if you feel unwell and have recently visited an area in which there is malaria, you should seek prompt medical advice, even if you have taken your anti-malarial medication correctly.
RisksEach year around 1,500 travellers return to the UK with malaria which has been caught whilst abroad. Most of the malaria imported to the UK is acquired in Africa. Malaria can kill people quickly if it is not diagnosed promptly.
Many cases of malaria can be prevented by the ABCD approach:
- Awareness of risk: know your risk of malaria.
- Bite prevention: avoid bites as much as possible.
- Chemoprophylaxis: take the right antimalarial tablets.
- Diagnosis: get immediate medical help for symptoms.
Visit your GP or local travel clinic for advice on malaria and other health risks as soon as you know that you are going to be travelling.
Content sourced from NHS Choices website July 2010.
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