Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease which is widespread in many tropical and subtropical countries. It is caught by being bitten by an infected mosquito that is carrying the malaria parasites in its saliva. The malaria parasite is a microscopic organism called a Plasmodium and it belongs to the group of tiny organisms known as protozoans. These parasites enter the host's bloodstream when bitten by an infected mosquito and then migrate to the liver where they multiply before returning back into the bloodstream to invade the red blood cells. The parasites continue to multiply inside the red cells until they burst releasing large numbers of free parasites into the blood plasma causing the characteristic fever associated with the disease. This phase of the disease occurs in cycles of approximately 48 hours.
Malaria occurs in over 100 countries and more than 40% of the people in the world are at risk. Large areas of Central and South America, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Oceania are considered malaria-risk areas. The World Health Organisation estimates that each year 300-500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide and more than two million people die of malaria.
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. Malaria may cause anaemia and jaundice (yellow coling of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells. Infection with one type of malaria, P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.
Any traveller who becomes ill with a fever or flu-like illness while travelling and up to one year after returning home should immediately seek professional medical care. You should tell your GP that you have been travelling in a malaria-risk area.
Anybody travelling to an area where malaria is endemic is at risk of catching the disease. Lately there has been an increase in the cases of malaria reported in the UK - in 1993 there were 1922 reported cases in the UK, including five deaths. All caught the disease abroad and almost all cases could have been prevented.
Be aware of the fact that adventure travellers are usually more exposed to malaria than ordinary travellers due to the nature of their activities and the fact that they travel to the more remote locations.
The risk of malaria for people travelling to affected areas is significant, so it is important to take precautions to prevent it.
Taking medicine to prevent catching malaria is essential for all travellers who are visiting areas with malaria. However, antimalarials are not 100% effective, so avoiding bites is also important.
Malarone need to be taken for 2 days prior to travelling. It needs to continue to be taken for each day the patient is at risk. It needs to be taken up to 7 days on returning from a risk area. This is to cover the incubation period of the disease. Malarone is also available as a paediatric tablet for children weighing between 11kg and 40kg.
Please be aware that for full immunity some vaccination courses, with more than one vaccine required, may take up to a month or longer. Please, also be aware that many vaccinations will not become fully effective until weeks after the course completion. It is strongly advised that you leave plenty of time to complete the course before your trip. Intervals between different vaccines or doses are recommended, which allows time for antibodies to be produced and any reaction to the vaccine to subside.
The above information should only be used as a guide and is not a substitute for medical advice. All vaccinations are only carried out following a Travel Risk Assessment and Consultation. The brand of vaccine we supply may also vary depending on the current supply status of a particular vaccine.
In order for us to assess the most appropriate vaccines please complete our Travel Risk Assessment.
Please contact us for more information or to book an appointment at any one of our occupational health clinics.
Our admin hours are 08:30 to 17:00. Outside of these hours you can send us a message or request a callback.
The Independent General Practice