The World Health Organisation has named April 25th as World Malaria Day, which aims to raise awareness of the condition and how the disease can eventually be eradicated.
Some countries carry a greater malaria risk than others, so for those who might be travelling we roundup some facts on the illness, and advice on how you can reduce the risk of contracting malaria and stay safe.
• Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. However, it is both preventable and curable.
• In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries.
• Although malaria was eradicated from the United States in the 1950s, around 1 700 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the country each year. The majority of cases are found in recent travellers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs.
• Travellers to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the greatest risk of contracting malaria, however all travellers to countries where malaria is present may be at risk for infection.
• Before travelling, check your itinerary for all possible destinations to see if malaria transmission occurs in these locations. You can also check the Malaria Information by Country Table for more detailed information.
• Contact a health professional to see how at risk you are for malaria, which will be based in part on your destination(s) as well as types of accommodation, the season and health conditions, such as pregnancy.
• Based on this risk assessment, you can then plan which malaria prevention interventions to use, such as using insect repellents or insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent mosquito bites, or taking antimalarial drugs. Again, travellers should consult their physician to find out more, especially as recommendations and the availability of antimalarial drugs vary from country to country.
• Although malaria interventions reduce your risk, none are 100% effective, so it is useful to know the symptoms of malaria so you can treat it quickly. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness, sometimes up to one year after returning home, and you will need to contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any symptoms. Left untreated, individuals can develop more severe complications and malaria can be fatal.
• Also remember that even if you followed all health advice and did not contract malaria, you may not be able to donate blood if you have recently travelled to a place where malaria transmission occurs.