IN THIS ARTICLE
Malaria is a potentially fatal illness. People planning to travel to an area with malaria should see their physician before travel, preferably at least six weeks before departure. Travelers should use mosquito repellent and barrier techniques (long sleeves and long pants) to reduce the chance of mosquito bites and take medications to reduce the risk of disease. Malaria in pregnancy is very serious and often life-threatening to both the mother and fetus. Because prevention is not perfect, and malaria is so serious, travel to areas where malaria is endemic should be discussed with a health-care professional and avoided if at all possible by women who are or may become pregnant.
Breastfeeding mothers may safely take some preventive medications, however, these will not protect an infant from malaria. There are safe medications for infants who are dosed by weight. Travel with children of all ages should be discussed with a health-care professional.
Mosquito-bite precautions include wearing light-colored protective clothing and using window screens and bed nets when available. The mosquito that spreads malaria is active between dusk and dawn. Insect repellants should be used and should contain DEET. Room sprays and insecticides may be used to reduce the mosquito population in sleeping areas.
Several medications are available to prevent malaria. The choice of medication used for prophylaxis depends on the area of the world that is being visited and the drug-resistance pattern in that area. In general, the medications are started before travel, taken while in the malarious area, and continued for a period of time after leaving the area.
Any traveler to areas where malaria is endemic who develops a fever up to one year after leaving the area should seek urgent evaluation for malaria, regardless of preventive treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control maintains a web page (http://www.cdc.gov/travel) that gives specific recommendations for every country.
There is no malaria vaccine commercially available to prevent malaria at the time of this writing. However, the Centers for Disease Control is conducting a vaccine trial with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and so far the vaccine has had promising results. If the vaccine continues to perform well, the vaccine could become available for use within the decade.
If promptly diagnosed and treated, malaria is usually not fatal. Long-term effects are uncommon with prompt treatment. Delays in diagnosis come because the disease is rarely seen by clinicians in the United States and often patients may ignore early symptoms. Delays increase the risk of serious complications or death. Because of the large burden of disease, scientists have been trying to make a malaria vaccine.
Picture of red blood cells infected with malaria parasites. The parasites look like rings inside the cells. SOURCE: CDC/Steven Glenn, Laboratory & Consultation Division
Figure 1: Picture of map showing where malaria is widespread (red), present in selected areas (yellow) or not present (green); SOURCE: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/1/2015
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