With only eight days left until safari departure, I decided to tackle the dreaded malaria medicine issue! Past experiences with malaria medications were unpleasant. Of course getting the disease would be even worse!
I visited a travel clinic in Cape Town on Strand Street and decided to go with a generic form of Malarone developed here in South Africa – Mozitec. Malarone is expensive in the US. Other less expensive antimalarial medicines, like doxycycline, have brutal side effects and are really hard on the body.
I begin taking one Mozitec tablet / day when we leave Namibia and continue taking it for 7 days after returning to Cape Town in late March. My body will be full of the stuff for some time…. Sadly, the truth of the matter is no malaria medication can boast 100% protection from getting the disease. You must take multiple precautions or be ready to suffer the consequences.
There are more fun and interesting blog subjects but malaria is a big deal in parts of Africa. I pondered forgetting the tablets, taking plenty of deet and permethrin, and being careful from dusk to dawn – wearing long pants and sleeves – when most mosquito bites occur. After talking to doctors and nurses at the clinic who said it would be insane to go on the safari without a malaria prescription, I acquiesced :(.
Malaria can be fatal. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children under the age of 5. Malaria deaths are usually related to one or more serious complications, including cerebral malaria when parasite-filled blood cells block small blood vessels to the brain resulting in swelling or brain damage
Deaths also occur from other side effects, including pulmonary edema, breathing problems, kidney, liver, or spleen failure, and severe anemia. Some forms of malaria even cause low blood sugar – it’s a very nasty disease!
You get malaria from being bitten by an infected female mosquito carrying a parasite called Plasmodium. Plasmodium parasites carry the disease to your liver and eventually infect your red blood cells. Malaria is curable if diagnosed and treated promptly. Symptoms appear a few weeks after a bite and include high fever, sweating, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea – not a fun scenario.
The biggest risk factor for developing malaria is living in or visiting tropical areas where the disease is common. Many sub types of malaria parasites exist and the disease is recurring. The variety that causes the most lethal complications is most commonly found south of the Sahara Desert where I will be for almost two months.
Last year I picked up an amoeba while traveling in Peru. It happened from eating contaminated fruit and vegetables. The Peruvian doctor who treated me advised sticking to boiled or packaged food (yuck)…. The amoeba wasn’t fun, but I imagine it’s nothing compared to contracting malaria. I have just about every vaccine known to man – shame they can’t develop one for malaria….