What are the ways in which you can prevent yourself from being infected with malaria?
Malaria prevention consists of a combination of mosquito avoidance measures (since malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes) and chemoprophylaxis (medication to prevent the establishment of malaria in your body, if you do get bitten). Although very efficacious, none of the recommended interventions are 100% effective.
Mosquito Avoidance Measures
- Because of the nocturnal feeding habits of Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria transmission occurs primarily between dusk and dawn.
- Contact with mosquitoes can be reduced by remaining in well-screened areas, using mosquito bed nets (preferably insecticide-treated nets), using a pyrethroid-containing flying-insect spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and nighttime hours, and wearing clothes that cover most of the body.
- All travelers should use an effective mosquito repellent.
- The most effective repellent against a wide range of vectors is DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide), an ingredient in many commercially available insect repellents. The actual concentration of DEET varies widely among repellents. DEET formulations as high as 50% are recommended for both adults and children older than 2 months of age (see the Protection Against Mosquitoes, Ticks, and Other Insects and Arthropods section later in this chapter). DEET should be applied to the exposed parts of the skin when mosquitoes are likely to be present.
- In addition to using a topical insect repellent, a permethrin-containing product may be applied to bed nets and clothing for additional protection against mosquitoes.
- All currently recommended primary chemoprophylaxis regimens involve taking a medicine before travel, during travel, and for a period of time after leaving the malaria endemic area. Beginning the drug before travel allows the antimalarial agent to be in the blood before the traveler is exposed to malaria parasites.
- Presumptive antirelapse therapy (also known as terminal prophylaxis) uses a medication towards the end of the exposure period (or immediately thereafter) to prevent relapses or delayed-onset clinical presentations of malaria caused by hypnozoites (dormant liver stages) of P. vivax or P. ovale. Because most malarious areas of the world (except the Caribbean) have at least one species of relapsing malaria, travelers to these areas have some risk for acquiring either P. vivax or P. ovale, although the actual risk for an individual traveler is difficult to define. Presumptive anti-relapse therapy is generally indicated only for persons who have had prolonged exposure in malaria-endemic areas (e.g., missionaries, volunteers).
- In choosing an appropriate chemoprophylactic regimen before travel, the traveler and the health-care provider should consider several factors. The travel itinerary should be reviewed in detail and compared with the information on where malaria transmission occurs within a given country to determine whether the traveler will actually be traveling in a part of the country where malaria occurs and if significant antimalarial drug resistance has been reported in that location.
- The resistance of P. falciparum to chloroquine has been confirmed in all areas with P. falciparum malaria except the Caribbean, Central America west of the Panama Canal, and some countries in the Middle East. In addition, resistance to sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine (e.g., Fansidar) is widespread in the Amazon River Basin area of South America, much of Southeast Asia, other parts of Asia, and in large parts of Africa. Resistance to mefloquine has been confirmed on the borders of Thailand with Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, in the western provinces of Cambodia, in the eastern states of Burma (Myanmar), on the border between Burma and China, along the borders of Laos and Burma, and the adjacent parts of the Thailand–Cambodia border, as well as in southern Vietnam.
- Additional factors to consider are the patient’s other medical conditions, medications being taken (to assess potential drug–drug interactions), the cost of the medicines, and the potential side effects.
The medications recommended for chemoprophylaxis of malaria may also be available at overseas destinations. However, combinations of these medications and additional drugs that are not recommended may be commonly prescribed and used in other countries. Travelers should be strongly discouraged from obtaining chemoprophylactic medications while abroad. The quality of these products is not known, and they may not be protective and may be dangerous. These medications may have been produced by substandard manufacturing practices, may be counterfeit, or may contain contaminants. Additional information on this topic can be found in an FDA document