For many, summer is the time for an exotic vacation. Others will head to tropical resorts during the winter. Anyone who travels should remember that an unfamiliar locale may mean exposure to unfamiliar diseases.
Malaria has been eliminated from the Unites States, but is still prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. One million people die every year from malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted by a mosquito bite. Other modes of transmission include blood transfusions and sharing used needles. Symptoms typically start within a few weeks of exposure but the parasites may lie dormant for years.
There are several different parasites that cause malaria. The most deadly ones are found in India, Africa south of the Sahara, some Pacific Islands and Haiti. Medication taken before, during and after a trip to a malaria area can help protect against infection. Different medications are used for different varieties so it’s important to know your exact itinerary.
In addition to taking the appropriate medication, you should reduce your exposure to mosquitos. Skin should be covered with trousers and sleeves from dusk to dawn. You should sleep under insecticide treated mosquito bed nets. Pregnant women and young children are at increased risk for severe disease and complications – and may want to consider vacationing elsewhere.
Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death can often be prevented.
For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a comprehensive website.