Anyone planning a long-distance trip to tropical countries should absolutely think of adequate protection against the infectious disease malaria. "In 2006, 566 cases imported to Germany were reported and 5 travelers returned, " warns Prof. Thomas Löscher of the German Medical Internists' Association (BDI).
Malaria in the Caribbean
Diseases are reported not only from the known risk areas. Travelers in travel destinations, who are not among the classic high-risk areas for malaria, also get sick again and again.
At the beginning of November, two German tourists became infected with malaria during a holiday in the Dominican Republic and were sent to a north German clinic after their return with chills, fever and diarrhea.
The couple had addressed the existing malaria recommendations and did not prophylactically prior to travel. Although the risk of disease in the Dominican Republic is low, with the end of the rainy season at the turn of the year, there are always cases of malaria, which is why it is important to find out about the risk of infection in the run-up to such a holiday trip, advises Prof. Löscher.
Among the cases that have become known, there is a significant under-reporting of unreported entries and travelers who already have the disease abroad. Worldwide, between 300 and 600 million people suffer from malaria each year, with between 1 and 3 million deaths. "When traveling in malarial areas with a high risk of transmission, medication for the disease should be taken preventively, " says Löscher.
For people traveling to areas with medium or low risk, on the other hand, in addition to consistent mosquito protection, it may be sufficient to take a reserve medication for on-site treatment. Which medication should be taken depends on the destination, type, duration and time of the trip. In addition, pre-existing conditions and the occurrence of side effects influence the choice of the appropriate remedy. Tourists must therefore inform themselves early before the start of the journey about the appropriate prophylaxis.
Nets and clothing protect against mosquito bites
The safest way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites. It is best to use mosquito nets treated with a repellent for the disease-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes. In addition, especially in the early evening hours, when the mosquitoes are mainly active, travelers should wear long clothes and be creamed with mosquito repellents.
If, despite all precautions during or after a journey in a malarial area of fever, severe illness, chills and headache and body ail, sick, should seek immediate medical attention. "Every fever in the tropics and on return is suspected of malaria, " emphasizes Prof. Löscher.
As a rule of thumb, one should therefore always think of malaria in these symptoms when returning from a risk area. Most malaria attacks after a tropical journey occur within 3 months of the return.
In case of symptoms of illness during the journey, travelers should take entrained anti-malarial products only if no doctor is available in the country of destination within 24 hours of the onset of the symptoms.