Each year almost 1,900 people return to the UK with malaria following trips abroad. Malaria is avoidable, but it can ba fatal if left untreated. Just a single bite from an infected mosquito can cause malaria and you may not know immediately, it can take weeks or months to appear.
People often mistakenly believe that they are immune to malaria. They may have been a frequent visitor to a malaria hotspot and believe that they have developed immunity over the years. Exposue to malaria builds a limited degree of immunity but this begins to fade six months after leaving the malaria hotspot. Those who have moved away from their home in a malarious country have probably lost any immunity they had and must seek travel health advice before returning to visit friends and family or they run the risk of returning home with the disease.
Not taking antimalarials or not completing the course is another risk factor. In addition to taking antimalarials reducing your chances of being bitten is a prudent thing to do. Use mosquito nets and insect repellents too, keep arms and legs covered and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are at their most active.
Six to eight weeks before you travel make an appointment with your GP or have a discussion with your pharmacist to investigate what are the current vaccine and antimalarial recommendations – remember they change frequently so get up to date advice. Your GP may give you a private prescription for an antimalarial such as Malarone , Lariam or even Doxycycline. If time has run out and you still need to seek advice check out the current recommendations at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign at www.fco.gov.uk . If you find you need antimalarials and don’t have a prescription log on to www.keenpharmacy.co.uk and click on the online doctor banner. We work in conjunction with PharmaDoctor to provide great value private healthcare and you can obtain your antimalarial prescription through us.
To get full protection from your antimalarials you need to complete the course, so keep taking them when you get home as they have been prescribed.
Enjoy your holiday but be careful – it only takes one bite to come home with malaria.