Malaria Prevention and Antimalarials for Travellers
What Is Malaria?
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites. Left untreated, it can lead to death. Over 500 cases are diagnosed in Canada every year. The vast majority of these cases are among travellers returning from countries with the disease.
Globally, more than 215 million cases are reported each year with more than 400,000 deaths. Malaria is one of the most deadly infections in the history of the world.
What Are Antimalarials?
Antimalarials, or malaria pills, prevent the malaria parasite from taking root in the body. Unlike a vaccination, antimalarials must be taken on a regular basis.
A wide variety of antimalarial medications are available. Due to drug resistance and differences in malaria strains, a travel health specialist can help you identify the best medication for your trip.
Be sure to visit with a Passport Health travel specialist at least four to six weeks before travel.
Who Should Use Antimalarials?
Anyone travelling to a region with malaria should consider antimalarial medication. Even if you were born in a country with malaria and since moved to Canada, consult with a travel health specialist on need.
But, not every antimalarial is suited to everyone. A specialist can help you determine which malaria medication is right for you and your trip.
Call or book online now to learn more or receive antimalarial medication.
How Does Malaria Spread?
Mosquitoes are the most common vector for malaria. An infected mosquito will bite a human and leave behind the malaria parasite. Only some species of mosquito can carry the disease making some areas virtually malaria-free.
It is possible for malaria to be spread through blood transfusion, transplant or sharing of needles. It can also spread from mother to unborn infant before or during delivery.
Health organizations recommend antimalarials and proper use of mosquito repellents or netting.
Where Is Malaria Found?
Malaria is found in many regions of the world. Central America, Africa and Asia all have large areas with at least moderate risk of infection. Generally, the disease is most common in warmer areas near the equator.
Regions with the highest transmission are Africa, south of the Sahara, and parts of Oceania like Papua New Guinea.
Some popular destinations with malaria present are:
- Central America – Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama
- South America – Peru, Brazil, Ecuador
- Africa – Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya
- West Asia – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Türkiye
- East Asia – India, Thailand, China
To find out if your destination is at risk for malaria, see our destination advice portal.
What Are the Symptoms of Malaria?
Once a person is infected, it can take seven to 30 days to start showing symptoms of malaria. Be sure to tell any healthcare providers that you were in a region with malaria when seeing them up to a year after your trip.
Most malaria infections come in three stages:
- Cold Stage – Individuals experience a sensation of cold and shivering.
- Hot Stage – This commonly brings fever, headaches and vomiting. Seizures can occur in young children.
- Sweating Stage – Patients will sweat and begin to return to a normal temperature. Tiredness is common.
Because of the similarity with the flu, misdiagnosis can occur.
Severe malaria is uncommon, but can lead to neurological problems, anemia, blood clotting or kidney failure. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect someone is experiencing a severe case of the disease.
Is There a Malaria Vaccine?
A number of malaria vaccines are in various stages of study or development but are not yet available for the general public. RTS,S/AS01 has recently been approved for very specific use in Africa. See the WHO malaria vaccination portal to learn more.
Where Can I Get Antimalarials?
Antimalarials are available by prescription-only. Some Passport Health locations offer onsite, while others may call in your prescription to a pharmacy. This varies from state-to-state based on local regulations. Call or book online now to learn more and schedule your appointment today!