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What is Malaria?

Malaria is the most widespread tropical parasitic disease in the world, with some 40% of the world’s population living in malarious regions. The island of Flores is a Malaria endemic area too. People who run the highest risk of getting Malaria are those who have never before come in contact with the disease, namely children who live in Malaria regions and travelers who visit there.

How can i get infected?

Humans acquire Malaria when they are bitten by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are active at night (but not exclusively), even at altitudes above 2.000 meters.

How do i know i got infected?

Symptoms of Malaria can develop from six days to a year or longer after a person has been bitten and infected with the parasite. Most travellers who develop Malaria are ill within a few weeks or up to two or three months after their return home. Some, however, do not become ill until six months or more after their trip if they have been infected with forms of the parasite which persist in the liver where commonly used prophylactic drugs may be ineffective.

Symptoms of Malaria include a flu-like illness with fever, headache, aching limbs, and in some cases, abdominal pains and diarrhoea. This may initially suggest other diagnoses. However, fever is the most frequently encountered symptom. A traveller having fever (with or without other symptoms) while being in a Malaria-endemic region or after returning from a Malaria-endemic region has to consider a Malaria infection, even if the correct anti-Malaria chemoprophylactic drugs have been properly taken.

What can i do in case i think i got infected?

It is of utmost importance that the traveller is aware of the possibility of Malaria and reports symptoms and specific information about the stay in an endemic region to a healthcare worker. All forms of Malaria can be associated with significant illness. There are four types of Malaria. The most frequently encountered parasites that cause Malaria in Flores are Plasmodium falciparum (Malaria tropica) and Plasmodium vivax (Malaria tertiana). The most dangerous form of Malaria is caused by Plasmodium falciparum, it can be fatal if diagnosis and appropriate treatment are not prompt.

Malaria is a medical emergency

The only certain way of diagnosing Malaria is to take a blood sample as soon as possible (within the first 24 hours) after fever and flu-like symptoms appear, in order to examine a blood smear under a microscope. If the initial smear is negative for parasites but Malaria is still suspected, blood smears should be repeated at least several times during the next two days, especially if no other cause for the fever has been found. In Flores, you can meet reliable medical help in hospitals from West to East.

How can i protect myself?

The consequences of Malaria are serious enough to warrant the use of preventive measures which are specific for every individual traveller and their destination.

  • Since mosquitoes are the vectors of Malaria, it is absolutely essential that you protect yourself from mosquitoes during the day and at night;
  • Use reliable mosquito repellent products (containing DEET or Icaridin);
  • Hang a mosquito net to sleep under and make sure that open windows have screens;
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants at night.

Some travellers take prophylactic drugs prior to arriving in Malaria regions to help prevent acquiring Malaria. Anti-Malaria drugs must be taken on a regular basis and also continued for at least some period of time (duration depends upon the drug) after their last exposure in a Malaria area. No drug can guarantee 100% protection against Malaria infections! Thus, travellers going to remote regions may be advised to carry a second medication for presumptive self-treatment in the case that symptoms which are consistent with Malaria develop and medical help is more than 24 hours away.
On Flores, reliable medical diagnosis is available from West to East. It would thus be better to visit a hospital for diagnosis before taking such self-treatment medication

There is no vaccine to prevent Malaria!

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