Health Team

New Recommendations may Help Travelers Prevent, Treat Malaria

Posted May 22, 2007 3:58 p.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2007 6:37 p.m. EDT

After a trip to Africa last fall, Amy Wald felt tired and feverish. A doctor diagnosed her with malaria.

“We see a case of malaria in our clinic probably about once a month now,” said Emory University malaria specialist Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky. “So it's becoming more frequent with the increased number of travelers and particularly the increased number of people who are going to more exotic destinations."

Malaria has been eradicated in the United States, but is most common in Africa. It's not directly contagious -- people get it through mosquito bites.

When travelers come home, they may bring malaria with them. But it can be difficult to diagnose and manage. That's why the Centers for Disease Control created new guidelines published in a malaria-themed issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We think we've come up with very comprehensive guidelines that can be useful to clinicians if they have patients who travel and come back with malaria,” said Dr. Monica Parise with the CDC.

Malaria's main symptoms are fever and fatigue, which are present in many illnesses. The guidelines include details about blood tests and effective drugs treatment.

Travelers can take specific medications before and during trips to reduce their risk of getting malaria. People like Wald need to tell their doctor about their travels.

Parise said more can be done to make sure malaria isn't missed.

“When doctors are evaluating a patient who has a fever, they need to ask about a travel history to find out if somebody's gone to a malarious area,” she said.