We get asked very often about malaria and whether it is a good idea to take medication while on safari. We decided to put together a comprehensive write up on Malaria in Africa to assist you guys. Enjoy it and post any comments that you have
What is malaria?
It is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and if not treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, re-infection typically causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria
The disease is transmitted most commonly by an infected female Anophelesmosquito. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce. Five species of Plasmodium can infect and be spread by humans. Most deaths are caused by P. falciparum or commonly referred to as cerebral malaria. However, this is found in mosquitoes that live in tropical climates
Symptoms of malaria:
The signs and symptoms of malaria typically begin 8–25 days following infection. However, symptoms may occur later in those who have taken antimalarial medications as prevention. Initial flu-like symptoms are most common and can include:
- Fever and shivering
- Joint pain
- Blood in your urine
Cerebral malaria symptoms arise 9–30 days after infection and include:
- Involuntary eye movements
- Muscle spasms
Malaria is curable and, if caught in time you can make a full recovery. However, pregnant woman, older people and children under two years of age are at risk
We always tell our guests – if you get sick in the next month, please go to your GP and tell them you were in a malaria area
Prevention from malaria:
The easiest and most cost-effective way to prevent getting bitten is by having nets over your bed. Wearing long sleeves and long pants and socks in the evening and early morning are also a good idea
There are a few different brands of mosquito repellents out there that work very well for deterring mosquitoes. Some are natural based; some are chemical based and contain Deet (a slightly yellow oil and is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents). The latter is very proficient at preventing mosquito bites and would be our preferred choice. Deet has been given a bad name in recent times. However, mosquitoes hate the smell of it and if used on your clothing instead of directly on your skin it can be very effective. When used as directed, products containing between 10% and 30% Deet have been found by the American Academy of Pediatrics to be safe to use on children. Be advised though that Deet should not be used on infants less than two months old
The most common choice by our guests is to use medication. We recommend that you ask your GP about Doxycycline. A combination of atovaquone and proguanil carry the least amount of side effects and works very well. There is another drug called mefloquine, but we would caution you against that as it carries unwanted side effects and can make some people very moody. Regardless, always follow what your GP prescribes. The protective effect does not begin immediately. People visiting areas where malaria exists usually start taking the drugs one to two weeks before arriving. They then generally continue taking them for four weeks after leaving.
A vaccine against malaria called RTS, S, was approved by European regulators in 2015. It is undergoing pilot trials in select countries in 2016.
Interesting malaria info?
Anopheles is a genus of mosquito first described and named by J. W. Meigen in 1818. There are about 460 species recognised. Over 100 can transmit human malaria and only 30–40 commonly transmit parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Adults can be identified by their typical resting position. Males and females rest with their abdomens sticking up in the air rather than parallel to the surface on which they are resting. Adult mosquitoes usually mate within a few days after emerging from the pupal stage. In most species, the males form large swarms, usually around dusk, and the females fly into the swarms to mate. Males live for about a week, feeding on nectar and other sources of sugar. Females will also feed on sugar sources for energy, but usually require a blood meal for the development of eggs. After obtaining a full blood meal, the female will rest for a few days while the blood is digested, and eggs are developed. This process depends on the temperature, but usually takes 2–3 days in tropical conditions. Once the eggs are fully developed, the female lays them and resumes host-seeking. The cycle repeats itself until the female dies. While females can live longer than a month in captivity, most do not live longer than one to two weeks in nature. Their lifespans depend on temperature, humidity, and their ability to successfully obtain a blood meal