Found in the subtropics of Africa, PNG, Solomon Islands and to a lesser extent Asia and South/Central America, malaria remains the most common fatal infectious disease in travellers. The malaria mozzies predominantly bite in rural forested, jungle areas between sunset and sunrise, and tend to be in greater abundance in the wet season; although closer to the equator they breed and bite all year round. The disease presents a minimum of one week after being bitten, with a high fever (alternating sweats and chills) along with a wide variety of other symptoms which may be confused with other diseases. The malaria parasite invades red blood cells, and some forms can rapidly overwhelm the body, leading to cerebral malaria affecting the brain, kidney failure, shock and death if not diagnosed and treated promptly.
Main symptoms are high fever, chills and sweats after being in a risk area. This can present like many other tropical illnesses but needs to be managed quickly.
Mosquito bite avoidance is the mainstay of prevention – see our separate fact sheet.
Preventative medication may be recommended if the risk warrants it. There is more than one type of medication available and a doctor needs to discuss the most appropriate one for you and your itinerary. These anti-malarial medications provide over 90% protection against falciparum malaria, the most dangerous form of malaria and form part of the overall risk reduction strategy.
Malaria is worse in children and pregnant women and in some cases we would advise these travellers against travel to high risk malarial areas.
This changes over time but at time of writing the order from highest to lowest risk is; Africa, Oceania, South Asia, Amazonia, South East Asia, Central America.
No - malaria can be fatal. If the risk is high enough to justify taking medications, then the benefits outweigh the risks. However there are recognised side effects to malaria medications so the risk benefit needs careful consideration.
There are a few different types of medications available, none of which are exactly the same. Which one is most suitable for you and your itinerary needs careful discussion with an experienced travel doctor. In some instances we offer a trial of the medication prior to travel.
Falciparum Malaria will usually present between 7 and 28 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Other forms of malaria can present up to a year after travel. As such it is imperative to get a blood test for malaria in case of ANY fever after travel to a risk area. Treatment is available and effective, provided it is started swiftly. Emergency treatment options can be used in certain circumstances but an evacuation plan to a good medical facility for proper diagnosis and monitoring should also be in place.
No. Much research has gone into developing one but it has so far proved elusive.