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How do I Minimize Malaria Risk?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Malaria is a parasitic blood infection transmitted by infected mosquitoes. It can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and headache, and in severe cases, can lead to anemia, meningitis, coma, and even death. As of 2010, there is no malaria vaccine, and some forms of the malaria-causing parasite have developed resistance to antibiotics, making them difficult to eliminate. Thus it is important to minimize malaria risk when traveling to a country where the illness is common. The defenses most commonly used to minimize malaria risk are medication, skin coverage, and insecticide.

As the parasites that cause malaria generally thrive only in tropical and subtropical climates, the illness is most common in warm regions, particularly southern Africa, southern Asia, and parts of the South Pacific. Malaria-causing parasites are transmitted to humans when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. The parasites first settle in the host’s liver and later enter the bloodstream, invading the red blood cells and causing them to rupture. Generally, malaria symptoms begin only once the parasite has invaded the blood. This may occur anywhere from several days to a year after initial infection.

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Researchers have not yet developed a safe malaria vaccine, and some forms of the malaria-causing parasite have become resistant to antibiotic treatment. Thus, it is very important to minimize malaria risk when traveling to a country where infection is prevalent. As risk reduction is generally a multi-step process, a physician should be consulted several weeks before travel.

One of the tools most commonly used to minimize malaria risk is medication. Usually, the drugs used to prevent malaria infection are the same as those used to treat infection. Travelers generally begin taking these drugs two or more weeks before their trip. They also continue taking them during and after travel. The ongoing use of these drugs reduces susceptibility to illness following a bite from an infected mosquito.

Keeping the skin covered can also minimize malaria risk by limiting the area that mosquitoes can bite. Sleeved tops, full-length pants, and covered shoes should be worn as often as possible. In addition, the bed should be surrounded by a mosquito net to prevent bites during sleep.

Finally, using insecticide can also minimize malaria risk by keeping mosquitoes at bay. A skin-safe formula should be sprayed on the body each day and reapplied as needed. Additionally, stronger formulations can be sprayed around one’s lodging to eliminate mosquitoes which have found their way inside.

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