Take the Bite out of Malaria

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It’s an enduring image from Saturday afternoon matinees

The intrepid explorer clad in safari gear, bathed in sweat, delirious from the effects of malaria in a hammock in a grass hut.

While malaria has pretty much been eradicated in developed countries, it’s still very common in some parts of the world. It’s estimated that 200 million people are infected, and 650,000 people die each year from malaria – 90% of those deaths occurring in Africa.

In the last couple of years, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of recorded cases of malaria in the US. In 2011, 1925 Americans were diagnosed with malaria. That’s the highest number since 1971 and according to the Centers for Disease Control, that’s a 14% increase over 2010.

Almost 70% of the Americans diagnosed with malaria in 2011 contracted the disease in Africa. More American cases of malaria originated in India than in any other country.

One reason for the increase in cases of malaria in countries like the US is the relatively low cost and ease of international travel. Most of the US residents who contract malaria are former residents of African countries or India who have gone back to visit. American aid workers and missionaries are also prone to contracting the disease. The affects may be more severe for them because they often haven’t developed some immunity to malaria through previous exposure.

Malaria can be diagnosed with a simple blood test and treated with drugs. However, if left untreated it can cause serious illness and death. There is no vaccination for malaria although one is now being tested.

The best defence against malaria is prevention.

Many people assume that they are immune to malaria if they grew up in Africa or India. That’s not necessarily the case. Immunity fades over time so even if someone is originally from a country where malaria is endemic, they need to take precautions if they are planning a trip.

Their first stop should be a visit to a doctor who specializes in travel medicine to ensure that they have the necessary anti-malarial medicines. They should also take a mosquito net, insecticides, and clothing that will protect them from mosquito bites.

Malaria is still a serious health risk in many parts of the world so if you are taking at trip to an area where malaria is present, take the necessary steps to protect yourself before you go.

Written by Randy Howden. Visit me on

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