Travelling is a great way to see what the world has to offer. For those who wanderlust, and dream of venturing towards warmer climates, it is important to protect yourself against the largest danger to your safety, malaria.
Where can I contract malaria?
Malaria is one of the most prominent killers in Africa and South-East Asia. In 2014, an estimated 3.3 billion people worldwide were at risk of contracting and dying from the disease – with transmission of the virus documented in 97 different countries.
The continent with the greatest threat of malaria is Africa. 90% of malaria fatalities worldwide occur in sub-Saharan areas of the continent with children, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system at greatest risk of death.
What does malaria do to a victim?
The initial symptoms of malaria can feel very much like a heavy cold or flu. High temperature, vomiting, chills and headaches all represent warning signs. Without treatment malaria can cause death through anaemia, hypoglycaemia, or even what is known as cerebral malaria. Cerebral malaria shuts down the capillaries that transport blood to the brain. Those who are not killed by the disease still face the possibility of life-long learning disabilities.
How do I contract malaria?
The disease is spread by a single-celled parasite found in mosquitos known as plasmodium. Less commonly known is the fact that there are actually five different forms of plasmodium known to cause malaria in humans.
Malaria may be very dangerous and it is impossible to completely remove the possibility of getting bitten when travelling to sub-Saharan Africa or South-East Asia. There are, however, a number of precautions that you can take, whether on a gap year, luxury break or adventure holiday.
The first steps to take are to consult your pharmacist about anti-malaria medications. At Express Pharmacy we carry Malarone, Doxycycline and Lariam, which all offer effective cover against the disease. Although each one comes with its own set of possible side effects – such as upset stomachs, headaches, thrush and sunburn – medication is always advisable ahead of travel.
To decrease the chances of being bitten, you should also consider taking a number of steps to keep mosquitos at bay. They include insect repellent and long clothes clothes that cover more of your arms and legs. Mosquitos are also very active at night, so to avoid bites while you sleep make sure all windows and doors are sealed properly and, if possible, sleep with the air conditioning on. Buying an insecticide treated mosquito net for your bed is perhaps the most effective way of ensuring your safety during the night when you are most vulnerable to bites.
Is there a vaccine?
Unfortunately, there is no 100% effective vaccine for malaria – although there are a number of clinical trials currently underway to produce one. Until such time as a vaccine is released for public use, always take precautions when you travel and, if in doubt, speak to your pharmacist or travel clinician for more advice and guidance.
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