Although there are very few downsides to traveling, the potential of getting sick is definitely one of them. There are certain vaccines you can take to prevent yourself from falling ill, but there are also certain illnesses that can’t be warded off. Along with dengue fever, one of the most prevalent of the unpreventable diseases in Africa is malaria.
The infectious disease is transmitted through a bite from a female Anopheles mosquito, who typically are only active in the evening and nighttime. A parasite called Plasmodium is injected into the bloodstream, then matures and reproduces in the liver, causing high fever, headaches, and extreme chills. In bad cases, and when infected people go untreated, the result can be coma or death.
You should be especially aware of contracting malaria when visiting tropical and subtropical regions, like Africa, Asia and South America. Places with heavy rainfall or rainy seasons are dangerous because mosquitos breed in stagnant water. In these areas, you must do everything possible to keep from being bitten. This includes wearing long sleeves and long pants, using TONS of mosquito repellant, and using a bed net when you sleep. These tactics will significantly lower your chances of being infected.
The most common areas in Africa affected are south of the Sahara Desert.
There are also several oral medicines you can take. It’s important to ask your doctor which is right for you, as some can have unfavorable side effects, including night terrors. Some pills you take every day, while others are only once a week. If you are planning on living in an at risk country for longer than a few months, your doctor may tell you it’s not worth the cost to take any antimalarial medication, but that you should use other methods of prevention.
If you think you are showing the symptoms of malaria, get to a doctor as quickly as possible. They will perform a blood test to see if you have it, and then give you the proper treatment. You will need massive amounts of rest as you recuperate, and vomiting, chills, and intense sweats are common.
Malaria is rarely deadly if treated properly. However, many people in low income areas are not educated about treatment, and cannot afford medicine. The parasite has even developed immunity to some medicines. WHO estimates that in 2012 there were 207 million cases of malaria, and 627,000 people died from it. By taking the right precautions, your travels to Africa, or any other continent, are sure to be malaria free.
How knowledgeable are you on malaria? Have you or anyone you know ever contacted it?