Mosquitoes and Malaria
Mosquitoes don't just leave you with a nasty bite. In some parts of the world, it might leave you with an illness that can kill.
What are mosquitoes?
- Fly-like insects with long legs and slender bodies, most active at dawn and dusk.
- Mosquitoes tend to inhabit warm climates. In particular, they can be found near standing water (like marshland) where their eggs are laid.
- The female mosquito has a taste for the blood of mammals, which can result in an itchy bite (actually caused by the insect's proboscis piercing the skin).
- In some regions of the world (see below) mosquitoes may carry disease such as West Nile fever, encephalitis, yellow fever and dengue fever. They can also carry malaria, often with deadly consequences.
- There is no current risk of contracting malaria in the UK. Even so, if you're travelling abroad this summer, you should consider the risks, and take any necessary precautions.
What is malaria?
- A parasite transmitted to humans via a mosquito bite. It replicates in the liver before travelling through the blood and destroying red blood cells.
- Symptoms begin with fever and chills that can last up to several hours. This can occur every three to four days, often accompanied by vomiting and convulsions, before things take a turn for the worst.
- Without treatment, the liver and spleen become swollen, and anaemia and jaundice kick in.
- As the red blood cells diminish, so the risk of coma and death increase.
- In Africa alone, malaria is responsible for the deaths of two million people a year
Consult your doctor about anti-malarial medication. A variety of types are available, including Malerone, Mefloquine and Doxycycline. Some deal with the parasite before it enters the liver, others tackle it on exit. Either way, no medication is fool-proof, with the most effective methods offering just 90% protection. Some forms of anti-malarial medication can also be used to treat symptoms should they arise. Malaria can be treated, if caught early, but prevention is key. This means taking steps to avoid being bitten in the first place. If you're travelling abroad, consider the following measures:
- Use a mosquito net - a fine mesh 'sleeping tent' that physically prevents the little critters from connecting with you.
- Wear long-sleeved tops and long trousers at dawn and dusk.
- Room spray - an aerosol insecticide that requires you to clear the room for several minutes after spraying.
- Use a fan or air conditioner. Mosquitoes don't like a breeze or cold air.
- Insect repellent (aerosol or roll on). Acts as a deterrent to mosquitoes when applied to the skin. Look for products containing DEET (recognised as the most effective mosquito repellent).
If you're travelling to Central and South America, Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean, consult your doctor before leaving about anti-malarial medication.
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