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Indelible International - At Least 10 Things You Need To Know About Malaria

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At Least 10 Things You Need To Know About Malaria
   Jordan Steinfeld
   August19, 2011
  

Graphic by: Jordan Steinfeld

Malaria is no joke. Every year tens of thousands (some years millions) of people contract a strain of this parasite and die. No matter who you are, you are by no means too cool to take antimalarials. Contracting Malaria is not a sign that you’re a true traveler, a bad ass, or a renegade. If in the worst case scenario  you do catch Malaria, get the treatment you need! Sit at home or in the hospital, take your meds and heal don’t try to be the aforementioned bad ass and get right back up to explore as not taking care of yourself can just make symptoms worse.  I also want to remind you that I am not a doctor and while I will be referencing the work of medical professionals, this article should not be used in lieu of seeking actual medical advice or assistance. 

Ok, so, what is Malaria?

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that feeds on mosquitoes.  There are at least four kinds of Malaria parasites that are known to infect humans.

How do I get it?

Malaria is transmitted from one infected person to the next through mosquito bites. When a mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected person some of the parasites mix with their saliva ultimately resulting in them infecting the next person they bite. Malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood.

Quick Fact: Malaria cannot be spread from one person to the next orally or through sexual contact.

What does Malaria feel like?

People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. It is not uncommon for someone with Malaria to experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

When will I get sick?

According to the CDC, for most people, symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 7 days or as late as 1 year later. Two kinds of malaria, P. vivax and P. ovale, can occur again (relapsing malaria). In P. vivax and P. ovale infections, some parasites can remain dormant in the liver for several months up to about 4 years after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. When these parasites come out of hibernation and begin invading red blood cells ("relapse"), the person will become sick. For this reason it’s very important to seek medical assistance immediately if you get sick within a year of being exposed to malaria.

Ok, so I’ll feel sick, but how will I know for sure?

If you think you have Malaria you need to go to doctor so they can examine a drop of your blood to determine if there are parasites present.  It is imperative that you get tested RIGHT AWAY if there is any chance you might have Malaria. Remember: it’s better to be wrong and healthy than stubborn and sick or dead.

Will I have it forever?

No, as long as you take your treatment seriously and remain vigilant you can fully recover from Malaria.

Awesome, so how can I prevent Malaria?

There are a lot of great antimalarial drugs available and your travel doctor can write you a prescription for the one that makes the most sense for you.

Can I take antimalarials long term?

In general, antimalarials can be taken for up to a year. Bring up how long you will potentially be exposed to malaria during your journeys when talking to your personal physician.

Will antimalarials make me superhuman?

No, but they might give you vivid dreams or make you hallucinate, so have fun with that.

I don’t like taking drugs, can I just use quinie?

Repeat after me: “British imperialists didn’t have all the answers!” Just because they thought some strong gin and tonics were all they needed to stay safe from malaria doesn’t make it true (fun fact: apparently it would take over 65 LITERS of gin and tonics per day to protect you from Malaria).

 

There is a lot to know about Malaria and the answers to these questions are only the beginning. To get all the facts make sure to talk to your travel doctor and do some research over at the CDC.

health, safety, ancient travels, true story, adventure, things that happen when you're a badass, things that happen when you're unlucky
 

     

 
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