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How to lessen the risk of malaria when on safari


By Jim Gathany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jim Gathany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Malaria is a febrile illness caused by a mosquito-transmitted parasite that is more active during the night, between dusk and dawn. Risk is higher for people travelling for long periods of time; sleeping in accommodation without air-conditioning or bed nets; travelling during monsoons and floods; travelling in rural areas and jungles, at lower altitude (under 2,000m) or staying outdoors after dusk. Also those with pre-existing medical conditions, for example pregnancy, epilepsy, and those with compromised immune systems like children and the elderly.

Depending on the destination, chemoprophylaxis (malaria prevention tablets) may be necessary. The options are plenty and all have pros and cons but they are essential. Remember that they are not 100 per cent effective and should be always paired with mosquito bite avoidance measures.

Bite avoidance includes using long and loose-fitting clothes, clothing treatment with insecticide and insect repellents with DEET on any exposed areas of skin. Concentrations of 50 per cent DEET have been found to provide the longest duration of protection (up to 12 hours in ideal conditions but more frequent applications are necessary if sweating or swimming). Bedrooms with air-conditioning are ideal but bed nets and insecticides (coil, spray, plug-in) will also ensure a bite-free night.

In 2010, there were 1,761 cases of malaria acquired abroad and five deaths from malaria in the UK. The incubation period is variable, from eight days up to several months. Symptoms start with fever, sweats and chills, discomfort, headaches, muscle pain and diarrhoea and can progress rapidly to serious complications including coma and death. Travellers experiencing these symptoms after visiting a malaria-risk area should seek immediate medical care.


Diana Silva is a travel health nurses for Nomad Travel Health Clinics www.nomadtravel.co.uk