The world’s biggest killer.
Around 30,000 travelers from the West catch malaria each year.
Every 30 seconds a kid in Africa dies from malaria.
In the 1960’s scientists were confident that malaria would soon be a thing of the past. It might well have been had all the governments in the world taken steps to wipe out mosquito breeding grounds. However corruption, civil war and incompetence made that impossible in the Third World and 350 million people still contract malaria each year. For over two million of them it’s fatal.
In fact, malaria cases are on the rise as the disease has become resistant to some conventional drugs. 90% of the cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa though the disease is also to be found through South East Asia and the tropical regions of South America. It’s a disease that primarily hits the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world where there’s little mosquito control.
The disease itself is a parasite that lives in the gut of a particular mosquito (the anpheles if you’re an insect buff). It’s a very complex parasite that loves nothing better than to lodge itself in the human liver. It bursts out into the blood stream and causes a terrible fever for 10-14 days before it burns itself out.
There are many kinds of malaria and even if it doesn’t kill you it can cause severe damage to the liver, kidneys or the brain. One kind in particular, plasmodium falpicarum, has a 1-2% fatality rate and is particularly bad news. This one is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Other less dangerous strains can lodge themselves in the liver and come back to get you years later.
Malaria Symptoms and Treatment
Malaria can hit in a week after the initial mosquito bite or else it might take several weeks to strike. If you have caught malaria you are likely to manifest the following
Symptoms may include:
– Extreme fever, even over 40C.
– Chills and sweats
– Strong headaches
– Muscle ache
By now you might be ready to hit the chemicals and you’d be a fool not to, really. You should definitely see a doctor to confirm what it is that you have. If you have the strain plasmodium falpicarum then you need serious medical attention fast.
The homeopathic remedies claim to be equally effective in treating malaria as in preventing it and you can buy homeopathic malaria pills. There is NO scientific evidence to support that these are effective, however, and we shudder to think how many well-intentioned travellers go into malarial zones armed with sugar pills thinking that they’re going to be okay.
If you don’t have access to medical attention then the main thing is to keep well hydrated and keep the fever down. Aspirin pills are excellent for this and you can also cool the patient with damp cloths.
Why Malaria Medicine is Something of a Scam
A common cause for fun on the road is watching all the paranoid travelers taking their malaria medicine. Around half of them end up feeling nauseous and blurry and the medication often ends up completely spoiling their trip.
So why do they bother? Because if you look at virtually any public health resource they’ll urge you to take malaria medicine for the entire time you’re in an affected country regardless of where you are.
Why? Because money talks and health walks. Your local doctor is phoned up every single day by reps on commission from pharmaceutical firms, most likely wined and dined by them and then blackmailed into recommending their medicine, from malaria pills to antibiotics and vaccines. Nor do doctors want to be sued by the unlucky traveler who does come back with malaria.
Absolute fortunes are made off selling malaria pills each year to travelers spooked by their local doctor. The thing is the vast majority of them run a minimal risk of catching malaria in the first place. Yet they get ill from taking the pills. Which all goes to show that something doesn’t have to be logical to turn a profit.
Conventional malaria medicines cause side effects ranging from nausea to depression to visual disturbances to panic attacks. Many are not recommended for pregnant mothers or anyone with high blood pressure and heart problems. The medicines basically hope to poison the malaria parasite to death before significant damage is done to the body.
The main thing to understand is that you are not going to catch malaria just because you’re going on holiday to India or Thailand. Yes, malaria exists there but probably not in the areas that you’ll be visiting.
If you take malaria pills you will feel sick, maybe suffer from hallucinations and bad dreams and very possibly do long term damage to your health. Unless you’re heading to rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, or to other places notorious for malaria, you’re better off without the damn things.
The best way to prevent catching malaria is not to get bitten in the first place. Tactics include:
.- Wear long sleeves and trousers at night, preferably not of too thin material.
– Use some kind of repellant. Lemon grass and lavender oils work well or you can go chemical if the mosquitoes are really heavy.
– Hang a mosquito net over your bed at night.
– Burn mosquito coils around your room though these too are pretty toxic.
– Don’t leave the windows open with the light on.
If you do decide to believe all the hysteria and take malaria medicine anyway make sure you’re taking the right kind. Here at least your local drug dealer (general practitioner) can be of use. Depending on where you’re going the mosquitoes have developed resistance to some medicines.
You also need to check that you’re not in a high-risk group for the particular poisonous remedy for malaria you choose to take.