Malaria (cont.)

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Is it possible to prevent malaria?

If people must travel to an area known to have malaria (the major risk factor for U.S. citizens), they need to find out which medications to take, and take them as prescribed. Current CDC recommendations, for malaria prevention, suggest individuals begin taking antimalarial drugs (tablets) about one to two weeks before traveling to a malaria infested area and for four weeks after leaving the area (additional prophylactic or preventative therapy). Doctors, travel clinics, or the health department can advise individuals as to what medicines to take to keep from getting malaria. Currently, there is no vaccine available for malaria, but researchers are trying to develop one.

Avoid travel to or through countries where malaria occurs if possible. If people must go to areas where malaria occurs, they should take all of the prescribed preventive medicine. In addition, the 2010 CDC international travel recommendations suggest the following precautions be taken in malaria and other disease-infested areas of the world; the following CDC recommendations are not unique for malaria but are posted by the CDC in their malarial prevention publication.

  • Avoid outbreaks: To the extent possible, travelers should avoid traveling in areas of known malaria outbreaks. The CDC Travelers' Health web page provides alerts and information on regional disease transmission patterns and outbreak alerts (
  • Be aware of peak exposure times and places: Exposure to arthropod bites may be reduced if travelers modify their patterns of activity or behavior. Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, peak biting activity for vectors of some diseases (for example, dengue, chikungunya) is during daylight hours. Vectors of other diseases (for example, malaria) are most active in twilight periods (for example, dawn and dusk) or in the evening after dark. Avoiding the outdoors or focusing preventive actions during peak hours may reduce risk.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Travelers can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. Tucking in shirts and wearing socks and closed shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Repellents or insecticides such as permethrin can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection; this measure is discussed in detail below.
  • Check for ticks: Travelers should be advised to inspect themselves and their clothing for ticks during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.
  • Bed nets: When accommodations are not adequately screened or air conditioned, bed nets are essential to provide protection and to reduce discomfort caused by biting insects. If bed nets do not reach the floor, they should be tucked under mattresses. Bed nets are most effective when they are treated with an insecticide or repellent such as permethrin. Pretreated, long-lasting bed nets can be purchased prior to traveling, or nets can be treated after purchase. The permethrin will be effective for several months if the bed net is not washed. (Long-lasting pretreated nets may be effective for much longer.)
  • Insecticides: Aerosol insecticides, vaporizing mats, and mosquito coils can help to clear rooms or areas of mosquitoes; however, some products available internationally may contain pesticides that are not registered in the United States. Insecticides should always be used with caution, avoiding direct inhalation of spray or smoke.
  • Optimum protection can be provided by applying repellents. The CDC recommended insect repellent should contain up to 50% DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), which is the most effective mosquito repellent for adults and children over 2 months of age.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/11/2013

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