Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is malaria?
- What are malaria symptoms and signs?
- How is malaria transmitted?
- Where is malaria a particular problem?
- What is the incubation period for malaria?
- How is malaria diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for malaria?
- Is malaria a particular problem during pregnancy?
- Is malaria a particular problem for children?
- How do people avoid getting malaria?
- What is the prognosis (outcome) for people with malaria?
- Where can people get more information about malaria?
- Malaria At A Glance
How do people avoid getting malaria?
If people must travel to an area known to have malaria, they need to find out which medications to take, and take them as prescribed. Current CDC recommendations suggest individuals begin taking antimalarial drugs about one to two weeks before traveling to a malaria infested area and for four weeks after leaving the area (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 (http://www.cdc.gov/travel).
- 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.
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