Travel Medicine Centre
Malaria is a parasitic infection transmitted by an Anopheles mosquito which bites between dusk and dawn. The disease is characterized by fever and flu-like symptoms including chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Although there are four kinds (species) of malaria, only one, falciparum malaria, has the potential to kill and hence is the most important to prevent.
Malaria transmission occurs in large areas of Central and South America, Haiti, the Dominion Republic, Sub-Sahara Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. However, the presence of malaria in a country does not mean that all travellers to that location are at risk. Malaria transmission may be seasonal, localized to particular regions of a country or found only in rural areas. For example, in most parts of South East Asia, Central and South America, malaria transmission occurs only in rural areas. On the other hand, in SubSaharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Oceania (islands north of Australia) transmission occurs in both urban and rural areas.
Malaria can be prevented by the use of personal protection measures to prevent insect bites (insect repellents, permethrin impregnated bednets, "knock-down" insecticides, (e.g. RAID), long-sleeved shirts and trousers and antimalarial drugs. Since no drug is 100% effective, in addition to antimalarials, all travellers must use personal protection measures to prevent mosquito bites when residing in a malarious area.
Antimalarial drugs should be started before travel, used continuously while in a malarious area and for 4 weeks after departure (1 week for Malarone).
As with any medication, antimalarial drugs can cause side effects, most of which are NOT serious.
Since antimalarial drugs may not provide complete protection, travellers may acquire malaria even if a drug is used correctly. Therefore, if a traveller develops fever during travel or within the year after return (especially during the first two months) malaria should be considered and prompt medical attention sought.
Fatalities due to malaria may occur if treatment is delayed.