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4 simple things you can do to avoid malaria 

Malaria caused 429,000 deaths in 2015 according to the World Health Organization and there were 212 million cases of this dangerous feverish illness.

Malaria is contracted from the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito infected with single-celled parasites called Plasmodium. This parasite does not make the mosquito ill, but it is thought that it affects its behaviour by making it more likely to bite. When the parasite infects a person, it travels to the liver to mature and reproduce, causing flu-like symptoms such as:

  • fever with shivering and sweating
  • headaches
  • muscle pains
  • vomiting

It can take a long time to recover from malaria and you may relapse several times.

If you think you have contracted malaria, get medical help immediately. Do not wait until you return to Canada.

1.       Keep taking the anti-malarial tablets

There are several different types of anti-malarials and some suit some people more than others. The type of tablet recommended to you will depend on where you are going and at what time of year, so be sure to discuss your itinerary and health history with your travel health adviser. Your consultation is in complete confidence. If you think you will need anti-malarials, make your travel health appointment at least six to eight weeks before you travel so you have time, if necessary, to take a short trial course of malaria chemoprophylaxis before you go.

You will need to start taking your pills before you arrive in the malarious area, and carry on taking them after you leave. With a multi-stop trip, it can be difficult to work out the right regime, but your travel health adviser will talk you through this.

Malaria prophylaxis is about 90% effective, so you will need to back up your tablets with some mosquito-avoidance tactics, and these will help you to avoid other mosquito-borne illnesses.

2.       Use insect repellent

The most effective mosquito repellent is 20% DEET, which will protect you for about three hours. If you are swimming or sweating a lot, then it needs to be reapplied more often. Keep DEET-based insect repellent out of your eyes and mouth, and away from any broken skin. Travel Health Pro in its advice on insect and tick bite avoidance says that 20% DEET is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding and for babies older than two months.

3.       Cover up

In the evenings wear loose-fitting clothes that cover your arms and legs. Cotton clothing can be treated with 20% DEET if you wish.

4.       Protect your sleeping space

When you pick your accommodation, avoid places near still water, which can harbour mosquito larvae. Where there are larvae, there will be adult mosquitoes looking for a meal! Look for well-maintained buildings with clear gutters and drains, too, and ask whether the rooms are treated. It’s worth quickly checking the walls before you go to bed as this is where mosquitoes commonly rest between feeds.

If you can, pick a room that has air conditioning so that you can close the windows and doors at night. If that is not possible, door and window screens can be effective but only if they are in good repair. Make use of mosquito nets if present, and consider purchasing a lightweight one to carry with you.

If you have recently returned from a malarious area, treat any fever with caution. See a doctor and let them know that you have been travelling.