Planning an international trip often involves months of preparation, multiple trips or phone calls to government offices, and at least 15 versions of a packing list. However important these things are, planning for Malaria takes the cake.
Although the disease is uncommon in the United States, Malaria affects thousands of international travelers every year. Those visiting Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are at the greatest risk for acquiring the disease. As you head overseas for business, leisure, adoption, mission and/or humanitarian purposes, there are a few important Malaria facts to know, items to pack, and advice to consider prior to your departure.
- Malaria affects people of all ages, genders, nationalities and physical health stabilities. No one is immune to the disease.
- Malaria transmission occurs through infected mosquitos, and may be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or birth if left untreated.
- Symptoms of Malaria include headache, fever, chills, other flu-like symptoms, coma and even death, if left untreated. Familiarizing yourself with the possible symptoms before departing is critical in ensuring timely recognition of the illness and seeking appropriate medical attention.
- There is currently no method of preventative medicine that guarantees complete protection from Malaria.
- In 2010 alone, an estimated 216 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide, resulting in 655,000 deaths, most of which children under the age of five. (Source: CDC Malaria Facts)
Because there is no vaccine for Malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that travelers take the following precautionary measures to minimize the risk of contracting the disease or becoming seriously ill:
- Determine if Malaria outbreaks and transmissions are prevalent in your destination country. There are several resources available to track the presence of the disease, including CDC-generated Health Alerts. The CDC released an updated Malaria Health Alert earlier this month, reportedly affecting Congo, Angola, Madagascar, Nigeria, Cambodia, Greece, Honduras, India and Venezuela.
- Consult with a travel health specialist to determine the preventative care most suitable for your body, travel itinerary, accommodations, travel season, planned activities and specific cities of tourism. Treatment may include an antimalarial drug regimen that begins before leaving the country and continues after your return.
- Reduce the risk of mosquito bites during your stay. Your ability to prevent insect bites in humid areas is constantly challenged, but there are ways to decrease your susceptibility. They include:
- Remaining in screened, air conditioned rooms,
- Packing and diligently using mosquito nets treated with Permethrin for the duration of your trip,
- Packing clothing that will adequately cover your body and minimize skin exposure,
- And using insect repellents containing DEET.
MALARIA-PREVENTION PACKING LIST
Considering the CDC’s recommendations, here is a list of supplies to put on your packing list’s “Non-negotiable” column. Keep in mind that your travel health specialist will be able to further refine your individual needs during your consultation, and may recommended additional items based on your destination and current health status.
- Mosquito nets treated with Permethrin
- CDC- and World Health Organization-recommended bug sprays – available at your local travel clinic for purchase
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Long pants with narrow legs
- Long socks
- Sunscreen containing DEET
- Antimalarial medication
Don’t take chances with your health while travelling. Smart travel supports safe, healthy travel and, in turn, an enjoyable trip. Find a travel clinic in your neighborhood, and take the precautionary measures that will protect your wellness. Watch http://bit.ly/InsectBorneDiseases to learn more about preventing Malaria and other insect-borne illnesses while travelling.
For more information on Malaria, antimalarial medication and Malaria treatments, visit http://bit.ly/CDCMalariaFacts.
For more on the CDC’s recommended precautions and facts about Malaria transmission and possible health complications, visit http://bit.ly/CDCMalariaIndex.