Nearly two in three Britons are unaware of the symptoms of malaria, according to a new survey.
And nearly one in four wrongly believe the killer disease is contracted by drinking infected water.
Only 10 per cent are aware that malaria symptoms can appear more than six months after a traveller returns home.
The figures, in a survey for GlaxKline Travel Health, were released to launch malaria awareness week which begins today.
The survey also showed that 5 per cent of people thought drinking gin and tonic would ward off malaria.
The findings come on the back of statistics from the Health Protection Agency, which has warned of a greater risk to UK travellers following a sharp rise in cases caused by the most deadly form of malaria – Plasmodium falciparum.
There has also been a 150 per cent increase in travel to malarial destinations over the past 10 years.
‘This new research is extremely worrying,’ said specialist travel health nurse Jane Chiodini.
Last year 1,758 UK travellers contracted malaria and eight of them died. The rise in cases of falciparum malaria coupled with ignorance about the disease is a potentially fatal cocktail that needs to be urgently addressed, she said.
‘I am amazed that such a high percentage of people think they can contract malaria by drinking infected water. British travellers need to protect themselves against being bitten by an infected mosquito if they are to avoid contracting malaria.’
She added: ‘Malaria can be a significant danger to British travellers – it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to contract it – but it is also a preventable disease.
‘British travellers need to be aware of the symptoms and learn about precautions. They should speak to a GP, practice nurse or travel clinic up to eight weeks before travelling to get the best advice on protection.’
The main symptom of malaria is a fever that occurs in regular episodes, with sweating, shivers and exhaustion.
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