Traveling? Protect yourself!
Annually, approximately 400 Canadians are reported to be infected with malaria while traveling abroad. However, it is estimated that only 30-50% of cases are reported therefore the actual number is likely much higher.
Malaria is an acute flu-like illness caused by a parasite which is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The severity of illness varies depending on which species of the malaria parasite is responsible for the infection. Signs of malaria include flu-like symptoms (headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and fatigue), muscle spasms, shakes and chills. Severe infection can result in seizures, coma, and kidney and/or respiratory failure which may lead to death. It is advised that you seek medical attention while traveling to malaria endemic areas at the onset of any unexplained fever. If malaria is diagnosed early, almost all malaria cases can be cured.
Malaria prevention has two components the first preventing mosquito bites, and the second taking a prophylactic medication. Malaria prevention with prescription anti-malarial medication is recommended if you are planning on traveling to any of the following areas: sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, New Guinea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Haiti, Central and South America, parts of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and the Middle East. The type of anti-malarial treatment you will be prescribed depends on where you are traveling as resistance to each medication varies from country to country. With most anti-malarial medications you must start taking the therapy before you begin traveling and stay on the therapy for a short duration once you leave the malaria endemic country. For this reason it is advised that you make an appointment with your family physician or the Lethbridge Travel Clinic (403-388-6666) a few months prior to your scheduled vacation.
To learn more about preventing mosquito bites, check out our blog on West Nile Virus! For additional information on malaria and its prevention speak with one of our pharmacists today!