What to Know When Traveling to a Country With Malaria

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We certainly hope you never have to seriously worry about them, but mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria, Zika virus, and yellow fever are a consistent threat in certain parts of the world. And while these diseases shouldn’t discourage you from booking travel to those destinations, it’s important to prepare as much as possible so that you and your loved ones don’t run any risk of contracting a virus while on your trip.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 1,700 cases per year of malaria in U.S. residents, mostly from returned travelers. While Sub-Saharan Africa poses the greatest threat of malaria, the CDC provides a list of all countries in the world where the virus puts travelers at risk. Be sure to take a good look at the malaria travel page provided by the CDC and the National Health Service (NHS) before booking your travel. Below, our tips on staying malaria-free.

Countries With Malaria Present

This table of countries from the CDC details where malaria poses the greatest threat, and since the virus is spread by mosquitoes, you can expect both warm and tropical destinations (parts of Africa and Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and some Pacific islands) to make the list. Be sure to identify which areas within a country can expose travelers to malaria, and consult with your physician to seek out the proper antimalarial pills.

Malaria Pills

When it comes to preventing malaria, there are a few options. In most cases, you should take antimalarial tablets (there are multiple kinds), which reduce the risk of contracting the disease by around 90 percent. Make an appointment with your physician or local travel clinic to determine the correct kind and dosage, and be sure to finish the full course.

According to the CDC, there is currently no licensed malaria vaccine on the market.

Preparation and Preventative Measures

The number one rule of avoiding malaria: avoid mosquitos. They tend to bite at dusk and dark, so keep this in mind when your travel days come to an end—just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When you’re putting together your packing list, be sure to include lightweight long sleeve shirts and pants, socks that cover your ankles, covered shoes, effective insect-repellent, and a mosquito net, if you’ll be spending ample time outdoors.

Malaria Symptoms and Treatment

There are several symptoms that can help travelers determine if they’ve been exposed to the disease. If you experience the following symptoms after visiting an area that has exposed you to malaria, be sure to notify a doctor immediately: feeling hot while shivering, a temperature exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit, vomiting, muscle pain, and diarrhea. Keep in mind that these symptoms can develop weeks, months, or even a year after your travels. The good news is that if the disease is diagnosed quickly and treatment is begun immediately, individuals will make a full recovery.