Determining Malaria Risk

The safest places to travel to avoid malaria are typically the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Because there are so many places in the world to see however, malaria can be a problem in many other countries, especially if you find yourself in rural or country areas in these countries. Africa, by far, is the continent with the highest incidence of malaria. Several children die each minute in Africa from malaria.

While Africa has the highest occurrence of this disease, you can also expect to find malaria in the Middle Eastern countries in Asia, India, Eastern Europe, the large rural areas of South and Central America, the islands of Central America like the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and countries in the South Pacific area.

Assessing your Malaria Risk

If you plan to visit a country where malaria is a problem, there is already a built-in inherent risk. However, there are other factors which also add to your risk on an individual basis. These factors are sometimes the reason why one traveler in your party may get this disease when someone else does not. Rainfall is one huge factor in a country as stagnant or standing water are breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites. Other factors may include:

1. Travel ignorance. Some people do not think about where they are going and do not conduct any research into the area in regards to illnesses like malaria.

2. Occurrence of malaria It is important to keep in mind that malaria most often occurs in rural or country areas although it has been known to venture in urban areas as well. Warm temperatures are conducive to a proliferation of infected mosquitoes when paired with low altitudes.

3. Timing of your trip. Certain times of year is more conducive to higher incidences of malaria. Rainy seasons are obviously the times when more preventative measures should be taken. With dry, cold seasons, there is less occurrence of this potentially deadly disease. It is important to keep in mind though that semi-tropical and tropical areas will always have a large risk, regardless of whether it is a rainy season or cooler season.

4. Dawn and nighttime exposure During your trip, you should be cognizant of the times of day when you are most susceptible to mosquito bites. Nighttime and just before dawn are active mosquito times.

5. Preventative malaria measures Of course your chances of contracting the disease are much lower when you take proper precautions like anti-malarial medications, wearing proper clothing and more.

6. General health If you are otherwise healthy, malaria will make you sick but with proper medical attention you will not die from the disease. However, if your immune system is compromised in any way i.e. cancer, AIDS, diabetes, etc. your risk is much greater. Plus, because malaria was virtually wiped out in the U.S. you will likely be more susceptible because you have not established any immunity to the parasite that causes the disease.

Preventative Measures

You should not be ignorant of possible health risks when you travel. Always refer to medical establishments like you doctor’s office, hospital or even the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest risks to the countries you are traveling to. You do not want to bring home malaria, the worst vacation souvenir.

By conferring with your doctor before your trip, you can be prepared with anti-malarial medications as well as get other preventative measures for protection such as:

Using insect repellent with DEET
Wearing long-sleeved clothing and tucking in your pants.
Using treated mosquito netting for your bed or sleeping in air conditioned quarters.

Even with preventative measures and anti-malarial medication, you could still contract malaria. Therefore, be aware of these symptoms so that you can get the proper medical attention:

Headaches
Flu-type symptoms
Chills
Fever
Muscle aches and fatigue
Jaundice and anemia