Malaria

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Malaria is an infection that is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes only bite in the evening and night. These mosquitoes sometimes go unnoticed, because they are small and make almost no noise.  The symptoms usually appear seven days to one month after infection, but sometimes only after several months or more than a year. The disease appears very similar to flu - particularly during the first few days - with fever, headache, muscle pain and sometimes diarrhoea or coughing. The diagnosis can only be made by means of a blood test.   

Malaria can be treated effectively, but without treatment this disease can quickly cause complications and become fatal. People who have had malaria in the past are not immune to the disease. 

People who belong to one of the following high-risk groups are at increased risk of experiencing complications:

  • Children younger than 12 years
  • People older than 70 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People with an immune disorder, such as a condition affecting the spleen
  • People in poor general health

Risk areas

Malaria occurs only in certain tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Central America, Africa and Asia. (malaria map) There is a high risk in the (dark) red areas. In the orange areas the risk varies and depends on the season, the exact location (city or rural area), the activities, the conditions that you are staying in and the duration of the stay.  The risk is low in the pink areas.

View the map

Prevention

Protection

Protect yourself against mosquito bites from dusk through to sunrise. These measures are also necessary if you are taking prophylactic malaria tablets, as the tablets never guarantee 100% protection.

Tablets

Always take prophylactic malaria tablets when staying in red, high-risk areas.

When staying in an orange area, discuss with an expert doctor whether malaria tablets are recommended for you. This depends on factors such as your general health and the conditions in which you are travelling. If you belong to one of the high-risk groups, then we also recommend that you take prophylactic malaria tablets when staying in areas with a moderate risk (orange areas).

Mosquito-repellent measures are sufficient in the pink areas.

Do you need emergency treatment?

In certain cases, your doctor will advise you to take emergency treatment with you.

Vaccine?

There is no effective malaria vaccine for travellers yet.

Pregnant?

Discuss with an expert doctor whether extra measures are required if you are pregnant.

Long or very short?

Discuss with an expert doctor whether a modified advice applies if you will be spending a long or very short period in a malaria area.

In case of symptoms

Are you experiencing flu-like symptoms (muscle pain, headache) during your travels or within three months after returning from a malaria area?

  • Measure your temperature and repeat this every eight hours.
  • You should seek urgent medical advice if you develop a fever, even if you have taken prophylactic malaria tablets.
  • Malaria rapid tests are not suitable for use by travellers. These tests are only reliable if performed by expertly trained persons.
  • Use only paracetamol for the fever and not aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • You must receive immediate treatment if malaria is diagnosed.
  • Call the travel assistance insurance during your trip for advice on reliable medical facilities (inactive counterfeit malaria tablets are sold in some countries). You can contact your general practitioner or a specialised clinic after returning home.

Emergency treatment

If you have taken emergency treatment with you and you are in a location where it is not possible to make a diagnosis within 24 hours, start taking this treatment. Even after starting this emergency treatment, you still need to have a blood test performed as soon as possible, to be certain that you are taking the correct treatment and that your symptoms are not being caused by another illness. After all, there are lots of other infections that can cause similar symptoms.

Additional information for doctors

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