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4 tips that will help you avoid catching malaria

Worldwide, there were 212 million cases of malaria in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. This dangerous feverish illness, which is carried by the Anopheles mosquito, killed 429,000 people in the same year.

Malaria can be very serious or fatal. It is contracted by a bite from a female mosquito that is infected with a Plasmodium parasite. The parasite does not harm the mosquito, but it is believed that it changes its behaviour, making it more likely to bite. Once the single-celled parasite has entered the human body, it heads for the liver where it matures and reproduces.

Some cases can be very serious or fatal and it is common for malaria patients to relapse several times before they recover. Symptoms include: fever with sweating and shivering, headache, muscle pain and vomiting.

If you think you have malaria, seek medical advice immediately.

1.       Chemoprophylaxis

There are a number of different anti-malarials, and your adviser at Canadian Travel Clinics will take details about your family and medical history (in complete confidence) and also about your destination to help make a recommendation. You may need to take a short course of tablets before you leave to ensure you do not have an adverse reaction. For this reason, it is a good idea to make your travel health appointment six to eight weeks beforehand.

For a multi-stop trip it can be tricky to work out when to stop and start your anti-malarials. A travel health nurse can help you work out a regime.

Malaria prophylaxis is about 90% effective, so you will need to back up your tablets with some mosquito-avoidance tactics, and these will help you to avoid other mosquito-borne illnesses such as yellow fever.

2.       Insect repellent

You can get three hours of protection from an insect repellent containing 20% DEET, though you may have to reapply more often if you are swimming or sweating a lot. Keep insect repellent out of your eyes and mouth, and away from any broken skin. The Government of Canada has advice on insect bite prevention.

3.       Dress against mosquitoes

Mosquitoes cannot bite through loose-fitting clothing with good limb coverage. Natural fibres can be treated with a bit of DEET – but keep it away from man-made fabrics because it can cause them to melt.

4.       Safer sleeping

When you pick your accommodation, avoid places near still water, which can harbour mosquito larvae. Look for well-maintained buildings with clear gutters and drains, too, and ask whether the rooms are treated. It’s worth checking the walls before you go to bed as this is where mosquitoes rest between feeds.

The most mosquito-proof sleeping space is an air-conditioned room with closed windows and doors. Window and door screens are helpful, but need to be in good repair. And finally, if bednets are present in a room, assume that they are needed and not just decoration! You may wish to carry your own mosquito net: there are a number of lightweight options on the market that are suitable for beds and for camping.

Always seek medical advice if you get a fever while in (or after being in) an area where malaria is a concern and let the doctor know where you have been.