The primary concern of any traveller should be to avoid contracting diseases on their carefully planned trips, especially when it comes to a disease like malaria.
Malaria is a common disease in tropical and subtropical regions and can be potentially fatal if prompt and proper treatment is not undertaken. It is carried by female Anopheles mosquitoes and can get transferred to a healthy person when they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
Approximately 210 million people are infected with malaria each year, and around 400,000 people die from the disease. Most of the fatalities are children in Africa.
This makes malaria prevention a priority for anyone planning to travel abroad. To effectively remain malaria-free as one travels across the world, the World Health Organization WHO has formulated the ABCD guidelines for travellers:
1. Awareness of the risk of Malaria
2. Bite prevention (mosquitoes)
3. Chemoprophylaxis (take the medication exactly as prescribed to prevent infection)
4. Diagnosis and treatment of disease promptly
Do your research
Conducting a quick online search to identify the malaria-prone areas of your travel destination will allow you to avoid them entirely. Plan to avoid exposure to mosquito-infested areas or places where malaria is prevalent.
Furthermore, avoid living in localities with roughed up roads that have large, standing pools of water: mosquitos breed in stagnant water.
The Malaria Information Country Table put up by the CDC provides detailed information about specific places in countries where malaria transmission might occur.
Risk assessment is essential.
Malaria prevention involves undergoing an individualized risk assessment to identify what the appropriate prevention measures will be, as well as how to prevent the adverse effects of any interventions used.
This involves taking into account your medical history, detailed itinerary, accommodation, the season, your mode of travel and the prevalence of drug resistance at your destination.
It is pertinent to note that even if you grew up in a country where malaria is common, nobody has full immunity to malaria. Any natural protection you may have built up is rapidly lost when you move out of the risk area to a malaria-free place. You will still need to take precautions to protect yourself from the disease if you are planning on visiting an area that is high risk.
Do not dress to impress the mosquitoes.
The most effective and sure-fire way to prevent malaria is not to get bitten in the first place.
Realistically speaking, although it may not be possible to avoid mosquito bites altogether, the likelihood of you getting malaria decreases if you decrease the chances of being bitten. When entering a mosquito-infested area, avoid wearing dark colours, as they attract the mosquitoes. Thicker clothes are advised as it is harder for them to bite you through them. Trade in your short-sleeved shirts and tank tops for long sleeved ones, stow away your shorts and capris and instead don a pair of long, loose pants and use a hat or a scarf that covers your neck.
Apply high-quality mosquito repellant on exposed skin, and remember to reapply it frequently. Do not spray it directly onto your face: instead, spread it onto your hands and pat it onto your face and neck, while carefully avoiding the eyes, lips and any damaged or irritated skin.
Moreover, mosquitoes usually bite between dusk and dawn, so avoid going out at these times. If you are not staying in well-screened or air-conditioned rooms, you will need to take added precautions. Close up your quarters or drape an insecticide-treated mosquito net around your bed and tuck it around your mattress to stay bite-free as you repose.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of malaria
No matter which measure you take, there is still a chance you will contract the disease. It is therefore imperative for you and anyone travelling with you to be educated about the signs and symptoms of the disease. This will help you make a prompt provisional diagnosis and seek the treatment required without delay.
Symptoms of malaria can begin to manifest anywhere between 7 to 18 days after being bitten. However, in rare cases, it can take up to a few months or even a year for symptoms to develop.
People who have malaria suffer from fever, chills, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue and cough. These occur in cycles of malaria ‘attacks’ involving shivering and chills, followed by high fever, and then sweating before returning back to normal temperature.
If symptoms of malaria occur, you should seek immediate medical attention as malaria can worsen very rapidly.
Can you get vaccinated?
No. There are currently no vaccines available to protect against malaria. This makes it extremely crucial to be carrying antimalarial medications to reduce the chances of getting the disease. Still, anti-malarials only reduce your risk of infection by about 90%, so it is best to be on the safe side and employ steps to avoid bites.
It is possible to take anti-malarial before your trip as a preventive measure, but this should only be done under the advisement of your physician. Depending on which type of medication you have been prescribed, continue to take your tablets for up to 4 weeks after returning from your trip. If you notice symptoms while you are on a course of antimalarial drugs, be sure to remember the type of medication you were taking to prevent the same type from being used to treat you as well.
The expert medical team at Click Pharmacy can help guide you with regards to the indications, contraindications and dosages of different antimalarial drugs (there are 4 widely available medications). Not only can you obtain an online prescription, but you can also place an online order for the medicine that is right for you.
Formulating a simple yet effective strategy based on ‘ABCD’ will help to effectively prevent malaria while avoiding common oversights and pitfalls that may jeopardize your plan of approach. By being well prepared, you will be geared up to enjoy your travels to their fullest without having to concern yourself with being infected with malaria.