Travel health

George Clooney recovers from malaria

George Clooney has malaria Actor's second bout of disease

Actor George Clooney contracted malaria while visiting Sudan in January, it has been revealed.

None other than Piers Morgan - who recently interviewed the star for his new chat show on CNN - announced on Twitter: "BREAKING NEWS: George Clooney has contracted malaria following recent trip to Sudan," reads the tweet. "Reveals news on @PiersTonight tomorrow 9PM ET. More Clooney - it's his 2nd bout of malaria. Taking medication but feeling rough."

His publicist confirmed it was the second time the 49-year-old actor has had the disease. It's thought this recent bout was contracted on his trip to the Sudan in the first week of January this year.

And the actor himself is reported to have said: "This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa can be reduced to a bad ten days instead of a death sentence."

This is only true, of course, if you have access to modern medicine, and even then it is not always the case.

What is malaria?

Malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases on the planet. It is caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Each year, around 1,500 people return to the UK with malaria, and ten or so die as a result. The parasites are carried by the female Anopheles mosquito and are passed on to humans when it feeds on human blood.

It only takes 30 minutes for the parasites to infect the liver after being bitten by a malaria infected mosquito. Once in the liver, they rapidly reproduce. Some of the parasites emerge and enter the bloodstream where they infect the red blood cells and other parts of the body, including the brain.


Typical symptoms of malaria are usually fever, headache and muscle pain. These can appear within a week to several months after being bitten. Coughing and diarrhoea may also occur.

Anyone who falls ill within a year of visiting a malaria endemic area of the world should report this to their GP.


Anti-malarial drugs which are taken before going on holiday, are 90 - 100 per cent effective in preventing the disease. Medication and avoiding being bitten is the best way to protect yourself from being infected.

Most cases of malaria occur due to:

  • Not taking any anti-malarial medication
  • Not taking the anti-malarials as instructed

Once back in the UK, people may think it safe to stop taking their anti-malarial drugs. However, the parasite can be hidden in red blood cells or other parts of the body waiting to emerge. So you must follow the instructions of your own type of anti-malarial medication.

Even if you are visiting a country for one or two days, you must take your anti-malarials. A single bite from a malaria infected mosquito is all that is needed to transmit the disease.

No-one is immune to malaria. This includes people who were been born in regions where malaria is rampant. That's why the parasite kills more than one million people worldwide every year.

Avoid being bitten

The first line of defence against malaria and other diseases transmitted by insects is to avoid being bitten. For other tropical infectious diseases, it is the only means of defence.

  • Wear loose clothing which covers arms and legs, especially at the times insects are most active
  • Use an insect repellent containing between 30- 50 per cent DEET on exposed skin to stave off mosquitoes (as well as ticks, fleas etc)
  • Towelling wrist and ankle bands impregnated with DEET are also useful
  • Reapply insect repellents after swimming or sweating heavily
  • Clothing can be sprayed with permethrin, not suitable for skin
  • Use a knock down insect repellent or plug-in vapouriser indoors. Most malaria carrying mosquitoes bite between dusk and dawn.
  • Avoid perfumes and aftershave as these often attract insects
  • Apply sunscreen first followed by repellent
  • If walking in long grassy areas, wear long trousers tucked into boots or shoes to avoid tick bites. Don't wear sandals.

DEET-containing insect repellents are not suitable for children under the age of two months. Cover babies with mosquito netting instead.

Travel clinics

Before travelling to hot climates, it is important to consult your GP or visit a travel clinic. They can inform you what anti-malarial medication you need for the country and area you are visiting and tailor the medication to your own health.

Malaria myths

The UK Health Protection Agency strongly advises against relying upon herbal remedies, homeopathic vaccines/remedies, vitamin B pills, tee tree or bath oils, garlic, Marmite or electronic buzzers to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes or as a cure for the disease.

This article was published on Fri 21 January 2011

Image © Yaroslav Gnatuk -

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