Malaria is an increasing problem around the world. In part this is caused by changing global temperatures and drug resistance. Millions of people die from Malaria each year and it is increasingly becoming an ongoing problem for the traveller to the Malaria zones of the world. In 2003 the UK saw 1,722 cases of imported malaria.
Climate greatly affects the feeding and breeding habits of the malaria mosquito. It is prevalent in tropical climates, but usually not higher than 1,500-2,000m above sea levels. Mosquitoes breed only in fresh water. World climate and global warming affect breeding and the spread of malaria. A countrywide change in 2°C can affect numbers of malaria cases over a season.
If you are visiting a malaria zone, see you TravelHealth advisor at least a month prior to travelling so that suitable medication can be arranged. Most medication is taken for a set period before going, continued while you are in a malaria zone and for a set period on return.
If you suffer from any heart condition, are pregnant, breast-feeding or epileptic, it is important that you inform your travel health advisor as this might influence the medication you are given.
Mosquitoes feed between dusk and dawn. The mosquitoes tend to respond to light in their feeding habits and are most active in low light hours after dusk and in the hours prior to dawn. Female mosquitoes will take a blood meal just before laying their eggs, which are laid at night. It is therefore important that repellents are used between dusk and dawn to prevent being bitten.
Use a repellent that has DEET, or contains a natural repellent such as lemon and eucalyptus; try to avoid using products that are connected to homemade concoctions!
While clothing alone will not protect you against mosquito bites, it can help in preventing bites when used along with other careful prevention. Clothing that covers the body, such as long trousers and long sleeves; socks etc., worn after dark will lower the risk of being bitten. While mosquitoes are able to bite through many materials, canvas mosquito boots and thick denim jeans will make it more difficult.
Clothing that has been impregnated with permethrin will also help repel mosquitoes. This clothing along with impregnated wrist and ankle bands lower the risk of being bitten.
If you are reluctant to impregnate everyday clothing, impregnated netting worn over the clothing will prevent chemical contact with the skin. It is important that fellow travellers are protected in a similar way, as repelled mosquitoes will go to another person who is not protected!
Research has suggested that mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and so keeping clothes clean, especially socks (!), might help. It has also been suggested that mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours, so wearing light colours or white clothing might help prevent being bitten.
While air conditioning does help keep the mosquitoes away due to the lower temperature, it is important that it is left on all day and that the windows are not left open at night!
Using a mosquito net in an area where malaria is present is a good idea. Ideally the net should be impregnated with permethrin at least every six months or when it is washed.