By Staff Writer
Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, we can finally dust off our luggage and get excited about travel again. While this will be a welcome respite from the everyday routine of lockdown, we still need to have our wits about us when it comes to keeping safe and healthy while travelling – and that doesn’t apply to COVID-19 precautions alone.
Malaria is still a deadly disease that continues to plague the world and the World malaria report 2019 estimates that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for approximately 93% of all malaria cases in the world. Malaria transmitted from the bite of an infected female mosquito and is not only prevalent across the globe but closer to home in South Africa too.
If you are going way for business or planning a holiday here are few helpful travel tips from Malaria No More to keep in mind to avoid spoiling your relaxing, long-awaited trip with the life-threatening side effects of malaria:
Do your homework
Whether you’ll be travelling within South Africa or taking advantage of the international travel ban being lifted to head overseas, you’ll need to first find out whether your destination is an at-risk area for malaria.
Over the last few years, malaria infections in SA have thankfully slowed. But, with rainy season on the horizon, malaria-carrying mosquitoes will have the perfect breeding ground to make an unwelcomed return.
Low altitude areas that are popular travel destinations, like Mpumalanga (including our beloved Kruger National Park), Limpopo Province, the Vhembe and Mopani districts, Musina, Thohoyandou and surrounds tend to have a higher malaria risk.
Beyond our borders, large areas of Africa and South Asia, parts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania that spans the eastern and western hemispheres, are all considered areas where malaria is common.
Visit a healthcare professional
While Google is always your friend, it’s a good idea to pay a visit to your doctor or local pharmacy who will be able to offer you the best malaria advice ahead of your trip.
A healthcare professional will have the low-down on which destinations require travellers to dose up on vaccines and/or malaria medication based on the latest health updates and governmental guidelines. A professional will also be able to advise which types of medications work best for you and your family’s unique needs, which may include over-the-counter malaria medications. These work to kill the parasite before it’s able to multiply in your bloodstream.
Don’t forget to stock up on a few bottles of good quality mosquito spray for your body and for the accommodation you will be staying at (look for ones that are 30% DEET or above).
During (and after) travel:
Now that you’ve taken the right medical precautions, it’s time to check that you’ve packed right. Along with your sun hats, SPF, sandals and swimming costumes, make sure you’ve included long-sleeves, leggings, full trousers and long socks as part of luggage essentials for travelling to high-risk malaria zones. These are especially crucial at night when the mozzies are more likely to be on the hunt, and will greatly reduce your chances of being bitten.
Also be sure to carry a mosquito net infused with insecticide that’s large enough to cover the bed you’ll be sleeping on, and don’t forget to tuck the ends under your mattress for a better shield against those dreaded buzzing enemies!
Watch where you lay
As awesome as it may be to sleep under stars, it’s safer to opt for indoor accommodation in malaria hotspots. When you arrive, give all the rooms a good spritz of your trusty mosquito spray before settling in to fend off any malaria-carrying mozzies that may be hiding in there, and make sure all the windows and doors are closed at night to prevent mozzies from making their way inside.
If the heat’s got you all hot and bothered, turn on the air-conditioning or ceiling fans – these will also keep mosquitoes away as they tend to dislike cooler temperatures and air turbulence.
When to worry
If during (or even up to a week or two after, as malaria can develop even up to one year after exposure) your travels you or your travel companions start to develop a fever, headaches, chills and fatigue, drop whatever you’re doing and seek medical attention immediately. Bear in mind that malaria, flu and COVID-19 all share common symptoms.
The last souvenir you want to bring back from your travels is a nasty side effect of malaria. Rather be safe and take the necessary precautions outlined in the Malaria No More guidelines above to enjoy the relaxing, stress-free trip you deserve.
Zero malaria starts with you and me – for more malaria updates and information, and to find out how you can help end the endemic in South Africa and abroad visit www.malarianomore.org.