Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects hundreds of millions of people each year. Recent estimates show over 300 million people are infected each year, and more than 1 million die from the disease. However, many travelers decide to forego the necessary malaria medications before and after traveling.
In some cases this is because travelers ‘believe’ they won’t get malaria despite the fact that a risk is indicated. Often, these individuals think because they are staying for a short time in an endemic region or are staying at a resort, they are safe. This is not correct.
Malaria, unlike pertussis or polio or even hepatitis, does not require you to come in contact with an infected person. Instead, the disease can be spread by any infected mosquito. Avoiding contact with people that may be infected with contagious diseases is, generally speaking, possible, but avoiding an infected mosquito is much more difficult. Repellents do wonders, but they are not 100 percent effective, they can and eventually will fail.
A mosquito does not care if you are in-country for just a day or if you are staying at a luxury resort, nor does the malaria parasite it carries. If you come in contact with both while overseas, it is possible you will become infected. While repellents and other measures help limit the possibility infection, it only takes one infected mosquito to give a victim this dangerous disease.
Another common reason for not taking medication is a perceived immunity or resistance to malaria due to previous exposure. This is especially true among immigrants returning home to visit friends and family and well-traveled individuals. Often this demographic will believe they can go without antimalarials, and in some cases even repellents, but this isn’t true.
A 2011 Centers for Disease Control study found 55 percent of imported malaria cases occurred within this group and that they are 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with malaria. Additionally, 59 percent of those who developed severe malaria were from this group, and a number have died from the disease in recent years.
No matter who you are or what you plan on doing, if you are traveling to a malaria endemic region, you need to take antimalarials before, during and after your trip (depending on the type you are advised to take).
For more information on malaria and antimalarial medication, see our malaria prevention portal.
If you are traveling to a country affected by malaria and would like to schedule a travel medicine appointment, please book online or call embednumber today.