Skeeter-Treaters Travel Tips: The Threat of Malaria
As hurricane season in the tropics presses on, the threat of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, including Malaria, continues to grow. Standing water and balmier temperatures in warmer regions create the perfect conditions for mosquito populations to explode. Here’s what you’ll need to know before traveling to an area where Malaria is a known risk.
Malaria – A Deadly Disease
A serious and oftentimes fatal disease caused by a parasite transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, a dawn to dusk biter that is seen across most of the United States. Responsible for an estimated 429,000 worldwide deaths in 2015, according to the WHO, Malaria is present in tropical and subtropical climates, including Mexico, South America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. And given the amount of flooding the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico have seen this hurricane season, it is likely mosquito populations will grow significantly. Cancun and the Riviera Maya, hotspots for travelers from the US, have seen isolated instances of outbreaks. Preventative treatments are recommended for those traveling to these areas. If you are planning on traveling to an area known to have Malaria, be sure to speak to your doctor 4-6 weeks prior to your travels.
In addition to the preventative medicines received prior to traveling to a region with a known risk, you should also take the same precautions as you would when typically dealing with mosquitoes. Wear long sleeves and pants and use an EPA-registered insect repellant. Anopheles mosquitoes are most active from dawn to dusk, and in shady wooded areas during the day, so you’ll want to avoid venturing outdoors during those hours if you can. Similarly, these mosquitoes often seek shelter indoors from the heat. Stay in a room with screened windows or use bed netting at night to avoid being bitten while you sleep.
Symptoms and Treatment of Malaria
The disease generally has a 7 to 30-day incubation period between the infective bite and when symptoms first appear. Symptoms include fever and flu-like illness, such as exhaustion, shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and even nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In fact, the disease is often mistaken for the flu in regions where Malaria is not prevalent and by people who are not aware they are at risk. Untreated, Malaria can lead to mental confusion, seizures, coma, kidney failure, and even death. If you find yourself exhibiting any of these symptoms after returning from a region where Malaria is a known risk, you should consult with your doctor immediately. Be sure to mention your recent travels.