Malaria is still the biggest cause of childhood mortality in Africa – about 1 million deaths per year. Anyone travelling for even a short period can contract the disease.
Travelers to the Kruger National Park are advised on prophylaxis especially during the rainy season from October to May.
Unfortunately there is no vaccine currently available for this killer disease but there are various effective prophylactic drugs available. Despite taking drugs other preventative measures are also advisable viz:
- Mosquito nets
- Light colored clothing
- Long sleeves and long pants
- Mosquito coils
- Insect repellants (only DEET based agents) must be applied and used in the form of lotions, sticks or sprays (eg. Tabard or Peaceful Sleep) on exposed skin in the evenings.
The following are the commonly prescribed drugs. Specific choice depends on individual profiles. A travel consultation with an expert at least 2 weeks before travel to a malaria area is therefore advised.
1. MEFLOQUIN (MEFLIAM):
Is taken after meals starting 10 days to 2 weeks before departure to determine any side effects. If tolerated it is taken weekly thereafter whilst in the malaria area and for 4 weeks on return.
Not recommended for:
- Machine operators, drivers, pilots and scuba divers.
- Travelers on anti-epileptic drugs, anti-depressants or beta blockers (cardiac drug).
- Safety in pregnancy is not certain.
- Gastric problems (nausea, vomiting, heartburn)‚ therefore take after meals.
Insomnia, anxiety attacks, depression and hallucinations, the latter have been reported but are uncommon (less than 2% incidence).
- Mefliam can be used in children over 1 year in smaller doses.
- Comes in affordable packs of 6s.
2. DOXYCYCLINE (DOXIMAL / DOXITAB)
Taken daily after meals starting 2 days before departure and daily for another month on return. Not to be used in pregnancy and children.
- Photosensitivity (sunburn)
- Gastric problems (heartburn, nausea, vomiting)
- Discoloration of teeth (therefore not used in children
- Vaginal thrush
- Interferes with oral contraception efficacy.
Can be used by scuba divers. Comes in affordable packs of 52 tablets.
3. ATOVAQUONE + PROGUANIL (MALANIL)
Taken daily starting 2 days before departure and continued for a week on return. Convenient for short term visits to malaria areas but expensive for the long term. Safety in scuba divers is not determined. Comes in packs of 12
Any traveler who feels unwell should be urgently tested for malaria. Any of the following symptoms should be regarded as malaria until proven otherwise:
- Fever, chills
- Muscle / joint pains
- Nausea / vomiting / diarrhoea
- Cough / sore throat
- Tiredness / fatigue
- Hot and cold shivers
- A single bite from a malaria-infected mosquito can lead to malaria.
- Cure is not always possible, so it’s worth preventing malaria at all costs.
- Even if the malaria tablets suppress the infection partially, they will still save your life.
- The seriousness of malaria warrants tolerating temporary and mild side effects.
- Travelers are warned of the risk of abandoning prophylaxis on the basis of hear-say leaving them at risk of malaria in remote areas with poor medical facilities.
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OF MALARIA
For travelers who might be at high risk (eg. adventure sportsmen, hikers, backpackers, health or missionary workers) a MALARIA RAPID TEST is reliable and can be carried and used by the traveler.
An effective option in the treatment of malaria is the use of COARTEM which can be carried as an emergency pack.
HOW YOU CAN DIE FROM MALARIA
- Not covering up exposed areas of the body
- Taking the pills irregularly or not at all
- Stopping the pills on return
- Ignoring flu-like illness
- Taking advice from locals or‚ pseudo, experts