Earlier this year, the World Health Organization announced the results of a malaria vaccine trial being run in sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccine, known as RTS,S was developed to target the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite causes the most malaria deaths globally, and is particularly prevalent in Africa.
Unfortunately, though hopes were high for this new vaccine, the results were disappointing. At the end of the trial, less than a third of the infants who received the vaccine developed immunity to severe malaria. It was also found that the fourth dose (administered 18 months after the first three) did not increase the efficacy of the vaccine to any significant degree.
At the end of the trial, the World Health Organization made the decision not to recommend the use of RTS,S. Though certain malaria experts are now calling for a U-turn on this, arguing that the (admittedly slim) benefits cannot be dismissed, it looks as though we’ll be waiting a little longer for a viable malaria vaccine.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to keep up-to-date on how to protect yourself while in a malaria zone.
Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Malaria
The only way to protect yourself adequately against malaria when you are in high-risk zones is to take malaria tablets.
Malaria zones, and the anti-malarials that they require, change all the time. High-risk areas are located in South America, Africa, India and South East Asia, but you can find out the requirements of your specific destination at the NHS site Fit For Travel
It’s also important to take other precautions besides using anti-malarials. You should wear mosquito repellent that contains DEET, and cover up your arms and legs. If possible, stay in accommodation that has insect screens on the windows, and sleep under a mosquito net that has been impregnated with mosquito repellent. Be aware that mosquitoes tend to be most active during the night and at dawn and dusk, and take extra precautions at these times.
Types of Malaria Tablet
There are several different types of anti-malarial tablet, including Chloroquine, Proguanil, Mefloquine, Atovaquone and Proguanil, and Doxycycline. Some of these are more familiar under their brand names, for example Malarone (Atovaquone and Proguanil) and Lariam (Mefloquine).
If you are taking Chloroquine, Proguanil, Mefloquine, or Doxycycline, you will usually have to start taking your tablets one week before you enter the malaria zone. After you have left the malaria zone, you will have to continue taking the tablets for another four weeks. Lariam is usually taken once a week, Chloroquine twice a week, and Proguanil and Doxycycline every single day. Please note thst The Online Clinic does not recommend Larium to patients because of its side effects profile.
If you are taking Atovaquone and Proguanil, you should start taking your tablets one or two days before entering the malaria zone, and then continue to take the tablets for seven days after you have left. Atovaquone and Proguanil should be taken daily.
Like all medicines, anti-malarials come with some risks and side effects, and these will vary depending upon the type you use. Malaria tablets are also priced differently, with Doxycyline typically being the most affordable and Malarone (Atovaquone and Proguanil) being the most expensive.
Malaria tablets are not typically available for free on the NHS, so you will have to obtain them through a private prescription. One way to do this is to use a private online health service such as The Online Clinic. Click here to view the malaria tablets we offer and to learn more about our services.
Symptoms of Malaria
If you take adequate precautions while travelling, then it is unlikely that you will contract malaria. However, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms, so that you can seek medical attention if you do fall ill.
Common symptoms of malaria include:
- Muscle pain
With certain types of malaria, the fever moves in cycles, switching from bouts of coldness and shivering to a high temperature, sweating and fatigue. If you are in a malaria zone and are suffering from these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The same advice pertains to patients who have returned from a malaria zone in the last 12 months.
The most important thing to remember when travelling to a malaria zone is that education is key. Read up on your destination using reliable sources and get as much advice as you can from travel specialists and doctors. That way, you can enjoy your trip without worrying about your health.
Free Online Assessment
Quick and Without Obligation