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What is Malaria and what causes it?

Malaria is spread by Infected Mosquitoes in tropical regions. It’s a serious illness often leading to high fevers, migraines and other flu like symptoms. In severe cases, malaria can be fatal. There isn’t currently a vaccine, although there are other ways to protect yourself.

Malaria is found in the tropics and subtropics, in equatorial areas. The most risky tend to be Africa, Asia and South America, and you’re most at risk from mosquito bites between dusk and dawn.Worryingly, in many places the insects are fast becoming immune to anti-malaria preparations. Scientists across the world are doing their best to dream up innovative new ways to halt the disease, including making key changes to the creatures’ DNA and even releasing millions of infertile male mosquitoes into the wild.

Global warming means malaria-carrying insects are spreading into cooler regions, so protection is more important than ever. But there’s some hope that a good malaria vaccine is finally on the cards, with exciting new developments announced in late April 2015.

If you travelling long or short term to a region where malaria is common you need to protect yourself. Here’s everything you need to know about malaria.

Malaria Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms tend to start 7 – 18 days after you’ve been bitten. But in some cases it can take a year. The initial symptoms are flu-like: a high temperature, headache, sweats and chills, sickness. But because they’re often mild, diagnosis can be tricky. Some versions of the disease involve four to eight hour fever cycles, where you keep going from hot to cold and back again. Common malaria symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

How to minimise the risk of catching Malaria?

If you’re travelling to a place with a risk of the illness, malaria medication is one way to avoid it. You can minimise your exposure to infected mosquitoes using a number of different methods including mosquito repellents and ointments, treated mosquito nets, appropriate clothing, mosquito coils and by using appropriate insecticides at night time.

Your primary job is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. Here’s some sensible advice about staying safe in at-risk regions.

  • Sleep in a room with special screens
  • Keep the windows and / or shutters closed
  • Use a large mosquito net which covers your bed completely
  • Make sure your net stays in good repair
  • Use insecticide indoors at dusk to kill any insects that have sneaked in during the day
  • If you sleep outdoors or in a room without screens, use an impregnated net
  • Burn a mosquito coil while you sleep
  • Stay indoors after sunset
  • If you go out, cover exposed skin completely and use an insect repellent on any exposed skin. Diethyltoluamide (also known as DEET) works well, but it’s best to check first because different products tend to work better in some areas than others, since the insects eventually become immune.

Depending on where you travel and length of stay, tablets will be provided for protection against Malaria.

Awareness of the risk
Bite prevention
Chemoprophylaxis (taking the correct tablets)
Diagnosis (knowing the symptoms and acting quickly)

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