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Malaria Risk Maps
Are you travelling to a malaria zone?
There are many travel destinations around the world where malaria prevention should be a priority. Malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes and caused by five different varieties of the Plasmodium parasite, is prevalent in large areas of Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. When visiting malaria zones within these countries, bite avoidance should be a number one priority. In some high-risk areas, antimalarials should also be taken (under guidance from a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist).
When planning a trip to a part of the world affected by malaria, some careful planning and preparation is required. It’s usually recommended that travellers from the UK speak to a medical professional about their travel health needs, at least six to eight weeks before leaving the country. This is because, in addition to advice about malaria, some further guidance on other tropical diseases may be needed, along with a course of travel vaccinations.
If you are travelling to a malaria zone within the next few months, you should book an appointment with your GP or a travel consultation through a service such as MASTA or LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.
You can also research your risk of malaria (and other diseases) by using a resource such as Travel Health Pro; on this site, and others like it, you can view an up-to-date malaria map for each country. This can be particularly helpful if you are planning a trip that will take you through several different countries where you may be passing through high-risk areas.
To find out more about using malaria maps, read the following guide.
What is a malaria map?
A malaria map (or a malaria risk map) is a map of a country that has been shaded with contrasting colours to indicate the differing levels of malaria risk in different areas. You can view malaria risk maps on Travel Health Pro and Fit For Travel by selecting one country and referring to the dedicated malaria section.
On the Travel Health Pro site, areas with no risk of malaria are shaded pale yellow, while areas with a high risk of malaria where antimalarials will usually be needed are shaded red. Areas that are low risk but still require an awareness of the risk and bite avoidance appear in shades of yellow and orange.
You may find that on some sites, including Travel Health Pro, not all destinations have their own map. This may be because, for certain destinations, the malaria guidance is the same across the country, in which case you should simply refer to the written information.
How do you use a malaria risk map?
One key thing to be aware of is that malaria risk zones change fairly frequently. For this reason, you need to use a reliable, regularly updated resource such as those listed above. You should also consult the written advice on the website accompanying the malaria map for your destination, and you should avoid printing maps out as they can change.
Malaria maps tend to be most helpful for people who will be travelling around, whether within one country or across multiple destinations. You may want to plot out your route on a map and compare it to the up-to-date malaria risk maps for your destination/s. That way you will be able to plan for sections of your route where bite avoidance and antimalarials are needed.
A malaria risk map can also be useful if you think that your trip may change. If you have a general idea of where the high-risk areas are, you will be better equipped to alter your travel route without compromising your safety.
The key thing to bear in mind is that it’s always safest to get advice from a medical professional before you enter any country affected by malaria. Relying on your own research may leave gaps in your knowledge.
Staying safe in malaria zones
Before you leave the country, you should make sure that you have done the following:
- Spoken to a medical professional about your travel health needs
- Received any necessary vaccinations
- Packed effective insect repellent and clothing that will keep you protected in malaria zones
- Obtained any necessary antimalarials and received guidance on how to take them correctly
When you enter a country affected by malaria you should get into the habit of practising bite prevention techniques. Wear long-sleeved tops and trousers (particularly between dusk and dawn when malaria-carrying mosquitoes are active), and apply insect repellent containing DEET (or, alternatively icaridin or lemon eucalyptus) to areas of exposed skin.
Ideally, you should sleep in accommodation with mosquito screens on the windows and doors, and air conditioning. When staying in more basic accommodation you will need to sleep under a mosquito net sprayed with insecticides. You can also use plug-in insecticides.
If a travel health professional has recommended antimalarials for certain portions of your trip, you should make sure that you take them correctly. All antimalarial courses need to be commenced before you enter a malaria zone, and continued once you have left. You can double-check how to take your tablets correctly by referring to the Patient Information leaflet that is provided in the packet.