If you’re travelling to another country, be sure to check the health requirements on the NHS site Fit For Travel. The health requirements of tropical countries change frequently, so make sure you only rely on the most up-to-date information.
Malaria is a tropical disease that can be fatal if left untreated. There is no vaccination for malaria – but you can reduce your risk of getting ill by taking antimalarials, also known as malaria tablets.
The tablets are:
• Taken either daily or weekly, starting one to seven days before entering a malaria zone.
• Taken one to four weeks after leaving the malaria zone.
Avoid getting bitten in the first place by:
• Applying insect repellent to any exposed skin. The most effective repellents have a high DEET content.
• Pick accommodation with screens on the windows and doors and use a mosquito net (ideally one impregnated with repellent) at night.
Dengue is another mosquito-borne disease, but there is no vaccine or cure. The recommended treatment is to let the infection run its course, while self-medicating with over-the-counter painkillers and resting as much as possible.
The only way to protect yourself is to avoid getting bitten:
• Cover exposed skin with insect repellent containing DEET
• Wear loose-fitting long-sleeved trousers and tops (mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothing.)
• Sleep under a mosquito net impregnated with repellent.
• Avoid/take care around water sources in crowded urban environments.
• Take care early in the morning and at dusk, when mosquitoes that spread dengue are most active.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral brain infection spread by mosquitoes. It is rare in travellers, but if you are visiting a rural area for a long period of time, or during or just after the rainy season, it’s recommended you get the Japanese encephalitis vaccine before leaving.
Unfortunately, this is not usually available on the NHS, but you can receive it privately. Two doses are given four weeks apart. Give yourself extra protection by using mosquito repellent and wearing loose clothing which covers your arms and legs.
Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic.