• 4/25/2017
    In recognition of World Malaria Day and in support of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to improve access to life-saving prevention tools, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is raising awareness of malaria and the importance of taking preventive measures, especially as many residents plan their summer vacation.

    This year’s global theme for World Malaria Day, observed each year on 25 April, is ‘End Malaria for Good’. In the lead-up to the day, the WHO is highlighting the importance of prevention as a critical strategy for reducing the toll of a disease that is thought to be responsible for more than 400 000 deaths each year.

    While malaria is not endemic in Qatar, hundreds of cases are diagnosed every year as a result of residents traveling to malaria-endemic countries. Dr. Hussam Al Soub, Senior Consultant of HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit cautioned: “People who have resided in Qatar for a long time and other malaria-free countries (countries where there is no continuing local mosquito-borne malaria transmission) may have lowered immunity to malaria and are thus vulnerable to serious illness.”

    Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. It can be a deadly disease, affecting millions of people each year and resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths annually, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO. According to the WHO, since 2000, malaria prevention programs have helped reduce the number of deaths caused by the mosquito-borne infectious disease, primarily through increased use of insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying with insecticides.

    Malaria transmission is more intense in warmer regions closer to the equator. However, even in countries where malaria is endemic, the risk of transmission can be reduced by avoiding bodies of water and staying in mountainous regions.

    “Simple precautions can help prevent infection during visits to malaria-endemic areas, such as using mosquito repellent creams and mosquito nets (particularly insecticide-treated nets), wearing long sleeves and long pants to cover your skin, and avoiding going outside at night,” said Dr. Al Soub.

    “People who plan to travel should consult their doctor or visit a clinic that offers travel vaccinations and medicine, such as the travel clinic at HMC’s Communicable Disease Center. It is preferable to visit a clinic two to three weeks before departure to get general advice and prophylactic (preventive) medications if needed. In general, it is important to start taking medication before travel, during travel and after coming back, as advised by a doctor. There are currently no licensed vaccines against malaria,” said Dr. Al Soub.

    He added that travelers to malaria-endemic areas may also be at risk of other infections, thus emphasizing the importance of visiting a travel clinic and receiving medical advice.

    Individuals who have recently traveled and are experiencing chills, fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting, are advised to immediately visit their health center, informing the doctor about their recent travel history. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria are important as the infection can quickly progress to severe illness, which can sometimes result in death. 

    Children, pregnant women, the elderly and residents of malaria-free countries are at the greatest risk of developing a severe illness as a result of a malaria infection. Those with a lowered immune system due to other illness are also at an increased risk.