PLEASE NOTE THAT ONE MUST ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR, PHARMACIST, OR LOCAL MALARIA SPECIALIST BEFORE EMBARKING ON A HOLIDAY TO A MALARIA AREA.
THE CONTENTS BELOW ARE DESIGNED TO BE A GUIDE ONLY.
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Malaria is very common in Sub-Saharan Africa. The predominant species is Plasmodium falciparum. Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous of the four species of human malaria (Plasmodium Falciparum, Plasmodium Vivax, Plasmodium Ovale, and Plasmodium Malariae). Malaria causes an estimated 2.7 million deaths per year, with most of these deaths occurring in Africa.
Ninety percent (90%) of the world's malaria cases occur in Africa. Chloroquine resistance is widespread in Africa. Now, Africa malaria outbreaks are being reported in some locations of Africa that had been previously thought to be at elevations too high for malaria transmission, such as the highlands of Kenya. Some scientists hypothesize this is due to climatic change, while others hypothesize that this is due to human migration. Also, malaria has re-surged in certain locations of Africa that had previously had effective control programs, such as Madagascar, South Africa, and Zanzibar.
Africa Malaria occurs in over 100 countries and territories. 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 Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania are considered malaria-risk areas (an area of the world that has malaria).
How do you get malaria?
Humans get malaria from the bite of a malaria-infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it ingests microscopic malaria parasites found in the person's blood. The malaria parasite must grow in the mosquito for a week or more before infection can be passed to another person. If, after a week, the mosquito then bites another person, the parasites go from the mosquito's mouth into the person's blood. The parasites then travel to the person's liver, enter the liver's cells, grow and multiply. During this time when the parasites are in the liver, the person has not yet felt sick. The parasites leave the liver and enter red blood cells; this may take as little as 8 days or as many as several months. Once inside the red blood cells, the parasites grow and multiply. The red blood cells burst, freeing the parasites to attack other red blood cells. Toxins from the parasite are also released into the blood, making the person feel sick. If a mosquito bites this person while the parasites are in his or her blood, it will ingest the tiny parasites. After a week or more, the mosquito can infect another person. And so the cycle continues.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause anaemia and jaundice (yellow colouring 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.
How soon will a person feel sick after being bitten by an infected mosquito?
For most people, symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 8 days or up to 1 year later. Two kinds of malaria, P. vivax and P. ovale, can relapse; some parasites can rest in the liver for several months up to 4 years after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. When these parasites come out of hibernation and begin invading red blood cells, the person will become sick.
How is malaria diagnosed?
Malaria is diagnosed by looking for the parasites in a drop of blood. Blood will be put onto a microscope slide and stained so that the parasites will be visible under a microscope.
Any traveler who becomes ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling and up to 1 year after returning home should immediately seek professional medical care. You should tell your health care provider that you have been traveling in a malaria-risk area.
Who is at risk for malaria?
Persons living in, and travelers to, any area of the world where malaria is transmitted may become infected. What is the treatment for Africa malaria? Malaria can be cured with prescription drugs. The type of drugs and length of treatment depend on which kind of malaria is diagnosed, where the patient was infected, the age of the patient, and how severely ill the patient was at start of treatment.
How can malaria and other travel-related illnesses be prevented?
- Visit your health care provider 4-6 weeks before foreign travel for any necessary vaccinations and a prescription for an anti-malarial drug.
- Take your anti-malarial drug exactly on schedule without missing doses.
- Prevent mosquito and other insect bites. Use DEET insect repellent on exposed skin and flying insect spray in the room where you sleep.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn. This is the time when mosquitoes that spread malaria bite.
- Sleep under a mosquito net that has been dipped in permethrin insecticide if you are not living in screened or air-conditioned housing.
Always consult your GP (Local Doctor) and/ or Pharmacist before departing for Africa.