Malaria: The Souvenir You Did Not Intend to Bring Home « Allied Health World Blog

Malaria: The Souvenir You Did Not Intend to Bring Home

If you are planning your dream trip to far away places with sub tropical climates like, Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Oceania you may come home with an unpleasant souvenir- Malaria.

About 1200 people get Malaria each year in the United States. Many of these cases are from refugees and tourists. Worldwide, an estimated 200 million to 300 million people are infected with malaria. Approximately 5 percent or 2 million to 3 million deaths occur annually.

Malaria is an acute infectious disease, usually but not necessarily transmitted by the bite of a female mosquito infected with single-celled parasites called plasmodia. There are four species of malaria parasites that can infect humans. Only one parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum, is potentially life-threatening. After being bitten by an infected mosquito, the parasites enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver where they mature and proliferate for several days or weeks with no signs or symptoms. Eventually, the plasmodia reenter the bloodstream and infect the red blood cells. The plasmodia will multiply for two to three more days and then will cause massive destruction to the red blood cells. This strike on the red blood cells is the beginning of the classic cycle of symptoms that will occur for 12 to 24 hours. Symptoms usually begin with uncontrollable shivering and chills, followed by a fever as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Profuse sweating occurs and helps the body temperature to return to normal.

Unfortunately, even though a person may be free of symptoms after the initial attack, repeated attacks will usually occur every two to three days. If left untreated, these attacks can continue for years and may be fatal. Fortunately, malaria is usually not life-threatening, unless it is caused by the plasmodium falciparum parasite, which releases all of the parasites into the bloodstream at one time producing a single severe and devastating attack that is sometimes fatal. The body is usually able to build up defenses against the other forms of parasites.

Before you leave for your vacation, consider seeing your doctor or a travel clinic where you can get information on the types of malaria found in the area you plan on traveling to. It may be recommended that you take an antimalarial drug before leaving and for at least four weeks after returning home.

While on your trip, put mosquito netting over beds, use insect repellents and wear long-sleeve-shirts and long pants if you go into mosquito prone areas. Stay indoors between dusk and dawn and try to avoid making your travel plans during the rainy season.