Malaria concernsRisk of malaria is on the increase

15 May 2006

A dramatic increase in the number of holidaymakers visiting exotic destinations means more people are at risk of contracting malaria, travel experts have warned.

Over the last decade there has been a 150 per cent increase in the number of tourists visiting malarial zones.

Malaria is endemic in more than 100 countries and is mainly found throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions. Around 2,000 UK travellers return home with the disease each year with an average of nine people dying from it.

People are being struck down with it because they are either not taking anti-malarial medication, taking the wrong medication for the country they are visiting, or not completing the course for the prescribed time after leaving the malarial area.

Former BBC journalist Rageh Omaar is spearheading Malaria Awareness Week and warning travellers to be aware of the risks.

Devastating consequences

'Malaria can affect anyone. I've seen first hand the devastating consequences of the disease, from watching it nearly kill one of my colleagues and closest friends, to affecting many of my relatives who travel to east Africa every year.

'I urge every traveller to seek travel health advice before they go abroad and take the necessary precautions.'

Malaria is passed on to humans when mosquitoes carrying the disease bite their skin. Symptoms usually begin about 10 days after infection but can take up to three months to appear. Initial symptoms include a flu-like fever and chills with a high temperature, together with muscular aches, headaches, diarrhoea, and nausea and vomiting.

However, the most severe strain of the disease can result in kidney failure, internal bleeding, coma and death.

Prevention is the key to stopping the spread of malaria because no anti-malarial drugs are 100 per cent effective. Making sure you don't get bitten by mosquitoes is sensible, so travellers should also:

  • Use insect repellent on skin and in sleeping environments. The most effective repellents contain diethyltoluamide (DEET). Insect repellents are available in a variety of forms including, sprays, roll-ons, sticks, plug-in devices and creams
  • Wear trousers with long legs and shirts or tops with long sleeves. This is especially important during early evening and night time as this is the mosquitoes preferred feeding time
  • Stay in accommodation that has screen doors and closing windows. In addition, or if this is not possible, sleep under a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide

Anyone travelling abroad should consult their GP, practice nurse or travel clinic for advice on what immunisations and medication they may need to stay safe abroad.