Visitors to malaria-affected areas must take appropriate advice and action following travel related deaths in UK
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) warned people travelling to areas where malaria is endemic to take appropriate medical advice and anti-malarial medication following six recent UK cases, including two deaths, in people returning from the Gambia.
None of the affected people had taken appropriate anti-malarial medication, according to HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.
"Malaria is a common and serious tropical disease passed on to humans by mosquito bites. There have been more than 40 cases so far this year in Ireland, in people who contracted the disease abroad. There are about half a billion cases each year globally.
"There are a number of different forms of malaria; the most severe and most fatal form, which caused the UK cases, is known as falciparum malaria. The best defence against malaria is to avoid getting bitten by infected mosquitoes by staying away from areas where mosquitoes gather and by protecting your skin using clothing, anti-mosquito sprays and mosquito nets. There are also effective prophylactic medications that can be taken to prevent the development of the disease. They may have to be taken for up to seven days before you enter the area and for up to four weeks after you leave.
"Failure to take the right medication is one of the commonest reasons for developing malaria. Anyone who becomes ill during or following a visit to a country where malaria is common should seek immediate medical advice and let their doctor know about their recent travel. Doctors should be suspicious of a fever or flu-like illness in such travellers, and should assume malaria until proven otherwise.
"Anyone planning a visit to a country where malaria is common should take a course of tablets. There are few side effects and it is a small price to pay for not contracting what is a best a very unpleasant, and at worst a fatal illness," said Dr McKeown.
Details of doctors listed with the Irish Society of Travel Medicine are available on www.istm.ie
More information on protecting yourself from malaria may be found here