When talking about preventing malaria it is first important to understand a few basics about the disease. First, malaria is a global killer with around 1,000,000 million deaths per year. Half of the world’s population lives in a malaria risk zone (3.3 billion people). There are an estimated 250 million cases of malaria each year.
Malaria Basics: A parasitic disease that is spread by infected mosquitoes; Malaria is characterized by fevers, fatigue and muscle aches. As the disease progresses enlargement of the liver and spleen can occur, along with a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Malaria is both treatable and preventable.
Species: There are four main species of malaria parasites: Plasmodium Vivax, P. Falciparum, P. Malariae and P. Ovale. Plasmodium Falciparum is considered the worst and most drug resistent.
Location: Malaria is found in virtually every tropical location on the planet, especially at lower elevations
Talking abot how to prevent malaria is a complex matter. An easy way to remember malaria prevention is the A-B-C-D approach
B: Bite Prevention
D: Diagnose early
Awareness is simply realizing that you are entering a malaria zone and are at risk for the illness. In addition, it is wise to know a bit about the disease including signs and symptoms.
Bite prevention centers around the concept that if you are not getting bit, you are not getting sick. The ways to avoid getting bit is to wear long sleeves, long pants and make use of insect repellent. 30-35% concentrations of DEET should be applied to your skin and permethrin should be applied to your clothing. Avoid being outside during peak mosquito biting times such as dusk to dawn. If needed, sleep under a mosquito net.
Chemoprophylaxis means taking a medication to avoid getting sick. For malaria, there are four main types of medications to prevent illness.
Chloroquine-Taken weekly; start 1-2 weeks before entering area and take 4 weeks after leaving
Doxycycline-Taken daily; start 1-2 weeks before entering area and take 4 weeks after leaving
Mefloquine (Larium)-Taken weekly; start 1 week before entering area and take 4 weeks after leaving
Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone)-Taken daily; start 1-2 days before entering area and take 7 days after leaving
Diagnosis early means that if you have a fever in a malaria zone it should be treated as malaria until proven otherwise. Do not delay diagnosis and visit a qualified health care provider as soon as you suspect malaria. Travelers can get malaria even when taking their medicines.