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Find out all you need to know about Malaria
For UK travellers visiting countries in Africa, Asia, or Central and South America, some knowledge of malaria is essential. Though larges areas of these continents are not high-risk for malaria, bite avoidance will often need to be practised. In specific areas, antimalarials may also be needed to provide adequate protection against the disease.
If you have a trip planned to a country affected by malaria, you should speak to a medical professional about your travel health needs. You can also learn more about the disease by reading this list of malaria facts.
In 2016, malaria caused 445,000 deaths worldwide
A total of 216 million cases of malaria were reported in 91 countries in 2016. This was an increase of about five million from the previous year, although overall the death rate remained roughly the same.
90% of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa
Though malaria is found across the world, its impact continues to be particularly devastating in the WHO African Region. Fifteen countries in this part of the world (fourteen of which are in sub-Saharan Africa) carry 80% of the global malaria burden.
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite and spread by Anopheles mosquitoes
Unlike many other tropical diseases, malaria is not contagious. It is nearly always spread to humans through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes pick up Plasmodium parasites by feeding on blood from infected people; the mosquitoes are not affected by the parasites, but they can pass them on through biting.
Female Anopheles mosquitoes are active between dusk and dawn
When you are in a malaria zone, you have to be particularly cautious about mosquito bite avoidance after the sun goes down, and before it rises in the morning. This is because the mosquitoes that spread malaria tend to feed during these hours. You can protect yourself by using mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers, and sleeping in accommodation with air conditioning, screens on the windows and doors, and plug-in insecticides.
(Because some mosquitoes – including those that spread dengue fever and Zika –are active during the day, you should avoid getting bitten during daylight hours as well.)
The most widespread and dangerous malaria parasite is Plasmodium falciparum
There are five types of malaria parasite that cause malaria in humans, but the most deadly is Plasmodium falciparum. In 2016 it accounted for an estimated 99% of malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is particularly widespread. This malaria parasite multiplies quickly in the bloodstream, causing a rapid onset of severe symptoms such as anaemia. It requires swift diagnosis and treatment.
Malaria parasites have developed resistance to certain antimalarials
The antimalarial chloroquine was once used to prevent malaria, but it is no longer widely used. This is because chloroquine-resistant malaria as caused by P. falciparum is now widespread. In certain areas, P. falciparum (and some other malaria parasites) has developed resistance to other antimalarials. For this reason, guidance from a medical professional is always advised before you obtain antimalarial medicine for a trip.
Bite avoidance should always be a top priority in malaria zones
Many people think that antimalarials are the most important aspect of malaria prevention, however bite avoidance is usually recommended as a traveller’s top priority. This is because antimalarials cannot provide 100% protection against the disease; the best way to avoid malaria is to avoid getting bitten in the first place! In countries affected by malaria, mosquitoes can also carry deadly diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis.
You can obtain effective antimalarials over the counter in the UK
Most antimalarials require a prescription, however you can now buy Maloff Protect over the counter in high street pharmacies. This malaria tablet contains the same active ingredients as Malarone and provides effective protection against P. falciparum. Before obtaining Maloff you should speak to a medical professional about your specific travel needs.Emergency standby malaria treatment is available for travellers to remote areas
If you are travelling to a remote area where the malaria risk is high and access to medical care is limited, emergency standby treatment may be prescribed. This is not designed as a substitute for preventative antimalarials; rather, it should be taken if symptoms begin and you cannot reach a doctor.
A malaria vaccine will be trialled in 2018
The Mosquirix vaccine will be rolled out to three countries impacted by malaria in 2018. In Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi the vaccine will be made available to children aged between five and 17 months, and administered in four doses. The trial is set to run until 2022, at which point it may be rolled out to more countries and at-risk people. Currently, there are no plans to develop a malaria vaccine for travellers; the Mosquirix vaccine is designed for people who live in countries directly affected by the disease.
As of 2016, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka are malaria free
In their latest report, the World Health Organization announced that in 2016 44 countries affected by the disease reported fewer than 10,000 cases. This is an increase from 37 countries in 2010 and demonstrates the progress made by global malaria elimination programmes. Best of all, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka are now free from malaria.
To find out more about malaria, order malaria tablets, or simply receive guidance from a doctor about your travel needs, visit the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor Malaria Clinic. You can also book a travel consultation with MASTA.