Malaria is a very common illness in many parts of the world, being caught from infected mosquitoes. The main symptom of malaria is usually a fever and it can be a serious, sometimes fatal illness. Each year, between 1500 and 2000 people are diagnosed with malaria on their return to the UK. Anyone visiting a malarious area can become infected. In 2005, there were 11 deaths from malaria in the UK.
The mosquitoes that carry malaria (and Japanese Encephalitis) bite from dusk until dawn. However, other mosquitoes that bite during the day can transmit other serious diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever. There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever but for dengue fever, mosquito bite prevention is the only method of reducing the risk of infection.
However, deaths and illness due to malaria are avoidable. The Health Protection Agency has issued simple preventative measures:
- Awareness and Advice
- Bite prevention
- Chemoprophylaxis (malaria tablets)
- Diagnosis (consult your GP on your return if you have any concerns)
- Wear loose long-sleeved tops and trousers (mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothes)
- Apply mosquito repellent containing DEET 30-50% to exposed skin – apply over sun cream
- DEET containing repellent of no more than 50% can be used on small areas of children’s skin, but should be avoided altogether in babies under 2 months of age
- For extra protection consider using a clothing treatment which contains an insecticide called permethrin
- Accommodation should be screened or air conditioned otherwise sleep under a permethrin treated mosquito net