Travel health

Last-minute travel malaria warning

Last-minute travel malaria warning Websites should outline risk, say doctors

Travel websites, especially those offering "last minute" winter deals, should warn people about the risk of malaria, health experts have said.

Writing in this week's British Medical Journal, the experts in infectious diseases tell of cases of malaria in UK travellers returning from "winter sun" holidays in the Gambia, a country where malaria is endemic.

The three patients had all booked their holiday using the same travel website, and two had made a late booking. None of the patients had taken anti-malarial medication.

Within two weeks of returning to the UK, they were admitted to hospital with the most severe type of disease, falciparum malaria.

Imported cases of malaria remain relatively common in the UK. The majority of cases of malaria in the UK is contracted in West Africa (813 of 1,495 cases in 2009). A significant proportion occurs in holidaymakers (57 in 2009).

The doctors at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough wrote: "Many travel websites and holiday brochures, including the website used by our patients, make no specific reference to the risk of contracting malaria.

"Travel websites need to include explicit messages about taking medical advice and effective chemoprophylaxis before travelling to malaria endemic areas.

"A warning about the need to allow sufficient time to organise these interventions may reduce the particular risk to individuals making late bookings,” they concluded.

Doctors recommend visiting a travel clinic four to six weeks before travelling for advice on the type of anti-malarial medication suitable for your health and travel destination.

This article was published on Wed 19 January 2011

Image © Yaroslav Gnatuk -

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