April 25, 2013

World Malaria Day: An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention – Amazon CARES Observes World Malaria Day

By Shannon Sullivan

When visiting Peru to volunteer with Amazon CARES, there are a few essentials you’ll want to be sure to bring. A camera, water bottle and rain jacket are a given, but you’ll also want to remember an antimalarial. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Peru is considered to have a low risk of malaria for visitors. However, it’s still recommended to obtain an antimalarial from a physician before your visit. 

Malaria is an infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and it most often presents with flu-like symptoms and anemia. Being proactive, however, can eliminate your risk of contracting malaria. Prior to traveling to a malaria-endemic area it is recommended to start an antimalarial, an antibiotic that the pathogen is susceptible to. 

There are a variety of antimalarials available, some being better suited for certain geographic areas. Most are started one to two days before travel and may be taken daily or weekly depending on the particular medication. Antimalarials are generally inexpensive and easily available from most pharmacies. 

Side effects of antimalarials are uncommon and mild, with the most common side effect being nausea. More severe side effects, such as blurred vision, convulsions, hallucinations, and taste changes have been reported, but are uncommon. (Source:  http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Antimalarial+Drugs

Some antimalarials are not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the risk of spontaneous abortion and birth defects, although there are safe antimalarials available for these women. Regardless, it is recommended that pregnant and breast feeding women do not travel to malaria-endemic areas.  Additionally, after visiting a malaria-endemic area, US residents are not permitted to donate blood for one year due to the potential risk of transmitting the infectious pathogen. (Source:  http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/index.html)

Mosquito (Source: Nat Geo)

Additionally, simple preventative measures can be taken to decrease exposure to mosquitoes, further decreasing the risk of malaria. Using insect repellents, such as DEET, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and the use of bed nets significantly decreases the chance of mosquito bites.

Only about 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States every year, most of those cases being from returning travelers. (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers

In 2010 there were 219 million cases reported worldwide. Due to an increase in awareness about the disease, its prevention and treatment, global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 25% since 2000. (Source:  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/)    

World Malaria Day is observed every year on April 25th and has been a driving force in raising awareness about this preventable disease. With just an ounce of prevention, you’ll be off enjoying the beauty of the Peruvian Rainforest in no time!

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Be sure to consult a physician before starting any medication or traveling to a malaria-endemic area.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shannon, we just saw this article tweeted by someone in the USA on www.malariapp.com.

    It's a great article showing just how easy it is to prevent malaria, although unfortunately a lot of travelers don't seem to do the research and take these easy steps.

    Thanks Shannon, it was awesome to see the article tweeted.


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