Research highlights ignorance of malaria risk among travellers

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New research highlights that almost half (48%) of those who travel to areas at risk of malaria may be leaving themselves exposed to the potentially fatal disease.

The survey of of over 1000 UK adults found that for many, lack of knowledge about where in the world malaria is a risk and lack of time to obtain a prescription of antimalarials were cited as reason for travelling without antimalarial protection.

Malaria is present in over 90 countries worldwide, mainly across tropical and subtropical regions.

Nearly three quarters of people (72%) didn’t know that malaria was a risk in Central America, and 47% were unaware of the risk within the Indian subcontinent.

Almost 1 in 3 people (32%) didn’t know that malaria was a risk in Africa – the continent that is home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of deaths from malaria.

According to the survey, 1 in 13 people didn’t take antimalarials because they didn’t have time to obtain them or they didn’t know where to obtain them. This statistic rose to 1 in 5 people aged 18-34. 

The research was published to coincide with the launch of Maloff Protect (atovaquone/proguanil), the first antimalarial medication available without a prescription from a pharmacy. 

Four million people leave the UK to travel to areas where they are likely to be at risk of malaria each year. In 2015, over 1400 people returned to the UK with malaria. Six of these cases were fatal.

London-based GP Dr Ellie Cannon said: “Malaria is a serious tropical infection that can cause people to become very ill with high fevers, chills and other flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches. It can very quickly become life-threatening if it’s not treated quickly. Travellers visiting at-risk areas should follow the NHS’ ABCD approach to malaria prevention, taking steps to avoid being bitten and taking antimalarial medication as appropriate.”