Information for travelers about MALARIA or PALUDISM.
What is malaria?
Malaria is an infectious protozoan disease caused by parasites named Plasmodium.
How can I get malaria?
Malaria is acquired through infected mosquito bites.
Anopheles mosquitoes usually bite during darkness hours: at down, night and sunrise.
They live in urban and rural areas located below 2.000 m height. During the rainy season the number of mosquitoes increases and the risk of infection is higher.
Where there is risk of contracting malaria?
Malaria risk countries are located in tropical and subtropical areas, near the Ecuador line (see map). The most risky areas are Sub-Saharan Africa, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
Malaria symptoms may start a week after entering an endemic area, but it can sometimes appear weeks or moths later.
- It is characterized by high fever, chills, headache, sweats and malaise.
- Fever attacks may recur every 2 or 3 days, but sometimes there is continuous daily fever.
- Undiagnosed patients could have an ominous outcome.
- Mental disturbance, seizures, coma, difficult breathing or spontaneous hemorrhages indicate severe disease and require urgent medical attention.
What is the effect of malaria in children and pregnant women?
Infants and pregnant women are at higher risk of severe malaria. Stillbirths and premature labor might also occur. Therefore it is advisable from these type of travelers to avoid malaria endemic areas. If the trip is mandatory all preventive measures should be taken to avoid malaria.
How can malaria be prevented?
Malaria could be prevented by: 1) avoiding mosquito bites y 2) taking chemoprophylaxis (drugs). Despite theses measures you should know that malaria could not be prevented in 100% of cases.
How can I prevent mosquito bites?
To prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear clear clothes (white, cream color) covering most of the skin (long sleeves, long trousers, socks, caps).
- In exposed skin apply a mosquito repellent. Those based on DEET are the most effective. Do not apply over eyes, mouth, skin lesions or the hands of infants.
- Sleep in conditioned air rooms or those with netted windows and doors. If this is not possible use a bed net appropriately fixed under the mattress. Permethrin treated bed nets or sprayed with mosquito repellents are highly recommended.
- Use electric devices (liquid or tablets) to repel mosquitos. Ultrasound and spirals are less effective.
- Spray your room with repellent hours before going to sleep.
What drugs can prevent malaria?
There are several drugs to prevent malaria. Your doctor will tell you the best for your trip. You should remember that most drugs for preventing malaria should be taken before entering the endemic area (depending on the drug 1 to 14 days before), during your stay in the endemic area and some days after leaving it (depending on the drug 7 to 28 days after).
Although chemoprophylaxis is extremely effective you have to remember that if you have fever or any other symptom you should tell your doctor you´ve been in a malaria endemic area.
Is there a malaria vaccine?
Malaria vaccine is not yet available for travelers or patients.
In case of fever or malaria suspicion what can I do?
If you are traveling to remote areas it is possible that your doctor would have recommended standby malaria treatment. If this is not the case you should immediately seek medical advice and contact a medical center.