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Travelling South? - Malaria Risk For Travellers

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:03pm
As the holiday season approaches, people may be planning to travel to popular tourist destinations or home to visit family and friends in areas where there may be a risk of malaria.

Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine available against malaria.

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that enters the blood of humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.


  • Can take from one week to several months to occur (depends on type of parasite)
  • Usually include flu-like symptoms such as fever, sweats, chills, headache, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and feeling generally unwell.
  • In more severe cases may include seizures, coma, kidney and respiratory failure, shock which may lead to death.

  • Malaria is spread to humans by the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite.
  • The mosquito that spreads malaria is usually active during the evening, night and early morning (dusk to dawn).
Regions of risk for malaria among popular Canadian tourist destinations:

Belize - All, except no evidence to date of a risk in Belize City.

Costa Rica - In Alajuela, Limón, Guanacaste, and Heredia provinces; no evidence to date of a risk in Limón city (Puerto Limon).

Dominican Republic -The resort areas within the province of La Altagracia (including Punta Cana and Bavaro), as well as all of the rural areas bordering Haiti.

Guatemala - Rural areas at 1,500 metres elevation and below; no evidence to date of a risk in Guatemala City, Antigua or Lake Atitlán.

Jamaica - Very limited risk in Kingston area.

Mexico -There is a risk of malaria to travellers in the southern regions bordering Guatemala and Belize. There is no evidence to date of a risk of malaria in the resort areas along the Pacific and Gulf Coasts or along the border of the United States.

Recommendations to Travellers
It is recommended that travellers,
Protect themselves from mosquito bites:
  • Cover up: wear light-coloured, long-sleeved, tucked-in shirts, long pants, shoes (not sandals), and a hat
Use insect repellent on exposed skin
  • Of the insect repellents registered in Canada, those containing DEET are the most effective
  • Use as directed by the manufacturer
  • Do not apply to cuts, abrasions or irritated skin
  • Do not spray directly on the face
  • Wash hands after application, to avoid contact with lips and eyes
  • When using sunscreen: do not use insect repellent and sunscreen combination products
  • If application of sunscreen and repellent with DEET is required, apply the sunscreen first and let it soak into the skin for about 20 minutes, then apply repellent with DEET
  • Repellent should be washed off at the end of the day, before going to bed.
Sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net
  • Ensure the net is intact (no tears or large holes)
  • Tuck it under the mattress
  • Ensure it is not touching you (or you still may be bitten through the net)
Consider your accommodations:
  • Stay in a well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned room
  • Apply a permethrin insecticide to tents and bed nets for greater protection
-Use only products manufactured for clothing and gear and don't use them directly on skin
-Permethrin-treated clothing is effective for up to 2 weeks or 6 washings

Discuss the benefits of taking anti-malarial medication with a health care professional before departure

  1. Travellers should visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before travel.
  2. No anti-malarial medication is 100% effective in preventing the disease.
  3. Discuss your risks with a health care professional to determine whether to take anti-malarial medication and which one to take.
  4. Recommended anti-malarial medication for regions with risk of malaria can be found at the following:
*Know the symptoms of malaria and see a health care provider if they develop.

Monitor your health
It is recommended that you seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of malaria especially fever within eight to 12 months of travelling to regions at risk of malaria.

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