It is quite likely for travellers to get affected by local diseases, while they are going overseas. Some can be debilitating and in some serious cases, may cause death. Malaria is one of the diseases that travellers need to be aware of and it’s for a good reason. Each year, there are about half a billion cases of this disease and it causes one million deaths, especially among younger children. It’s a common parasitic disease that affects people. The disease can be quite serious and it has significant socio-economic effects in many communities. Many people succumb to vicious cycle of poverty due to rampant outbreak of malaria in their areas. Malaria is caused by protozoa from Plasmodium genus, with four species that cause the disease, p. Falciparum, p. Vivax, p. Malariae and p. Ovale.
Another species, p. Knowlesi affects primates and it may spread to human, in some cases. Malaria is a tropical disease and can happen in many tropical countries, such as India, Africa, South Pacific, South East Asia, Central America, South America and parts of Middle East. So, if you plan to visit any of these regions, it is important to be aware of the occurrence of malaria in your destination areas. Malaria can have severe impact in the area when there are mosquito vectors, such as Anopheles and there are no effective measures from the government to contain the annual outbreak. Female Anopheles mosquitoes that are infected with plasmodium protozoa would be transferred into the human host, while they feed on our blood.
Travellers should be aware that depending on the plasmodium species and the health condition of the person, the incubation period could be days or months. So, the person could be affected by malaria weeks after the traveller reaches home. Symptoms of malaria are non-specific, they may include chills, fever, diarrhea, joint aches and vomiting. When you return from or in a risky area, you need to have your condition checked for malaria, when you have these symptoms. Depending on the plasmodium, paroxysms could happen every 48 to 72 hours. Paroxysms are the rupture of infected body cells and the release of parasites and various metabolic products into our body systems. When it happens, the symptoms can be quite sever, such as shaking chills and teeth chattering.
P. falciparum is particularly dangerous when untreated and it can be life threatening. So it’s important to know what variant of malaria that is prevalent in the destination area. Other malaria variants are less serious, but still need to be treated immediately. It is important that you stay in clean hotels and filtered air, if you want to reduce the chances of getting malaria. Medications for malaria include Fansidar, Chloroquine, mefloquine, quinine doxycycline, Malarone and various artemisin derivatives. Young children, pregnant women and elderly shouldn’t go to risky places where malaria could affect them. It is important that the health facilities in the destination area are well equipped to deal with this kind of condition.