THE PHARMACIST : Four steps to preventing malaria

Monday July 10 2017

Mosquito repellents containing diethyl

Mosquito repellents containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) is known to be the most effective form of prevention from mosquito bites. PHOTO | FILE 

By Dr Sajjad Sherally Fazel

Malaria is a preventable and curable disease which is spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms usually appear within 7 - 30 days but can take up to one year to develop. Symptoms include high fever, shaking chills, sweating, malaise, nausea, muscle and joint pain and flu.

Who is at risk?

It is widespread in tropical and subtropical areas of mainly Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Many people who are infected by malaria are either those who did not take prophylaxis or did not take measure to prevent it.

It usually affects people who spend time outdoors, including sleeping outside and people travelling. Furthermore children are known to be at high risk of malaria and therefore extra care should be taken in protecting them.

Prevention

Prevention can be looked as:

1. Awareness of risk

There are different types of malaria and the areas of greatest risk are those where there’s high prevalence of multi-resistant Plasmodium Falciparum malaria.

Hence the risk of being bitten by a mosquito and the type of malaria transmitted varies, depending on the country you’re visiting and the time of year.

2. Bite avoidance

For optimal prevention of malaria, protection from mosquito bite is essential even if you taking preventive medicines.

Mosquitoes that carry malaria bite particularly at night time hence most precautions should be taken during this time.

Sleep in rooms that are properly netted and air-conditioned room are good too.

Spray the room with insecticide before entering or use a mosquito net around your bed impregnated with an insecticide.

Long trousers, long sleeved clothing and thick enough socks would stop mosquitoes biting will also protect you and should be worn outside after sunset.

Mosquito repellents containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) is known to be the most effective form of prevention from bites.

3. Chemoprophylaxis

Taking medicines to prevent malaria is essential, if you’re visiting an area where malaria is prevalent.

When considering which drug is right for you for prophylaxis, keep in mind the type of malaria in the area you are visiting, the risk of being bitten by a mosquito and individual conditions like pregnancy or other diseases.

Some of the names of the medicines used for prophylaxis include a combination of chloroquine and proguanil, doxycycline and malarone and mefloquine.

Some of them need to be taken weekly while others are taken daily, out of which two of them cannot be used in pregnancy and in children under 12 year.

Hence it is very important that you are directed by a pharmacist or a doctor or both while you are considering to take the medicines. They should be able to tell you what recommended regimen is for the county you are visiting.

Also the risk of malaria increases with the length of stay and so it is important to keep taking your medicines throughout your travels.

4. Emergency treatment

The most common drug used for treatment of malaria include artemesin combined with lumefantrine.

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