With eight days until safari departure, I decided to tackle the dreaded malaria medication issue! My past experiences with malaria medicine were unpleasant. Getting the disease would be even worse!
I visited a travel clinic in Cape Town and selected Mozitec, a generic form of Malarone developed in South Africa. Mozitec contains atovaquone and proguanil and kills malaria parasites living inside red blood cells and other tissues. In the US, Malarone is expensive. Other less-expensive antimalarial medicines like Doxycycline have brutal side effects and are hard on the body.
When we leave Namibia, I begin taking one Mozitec tablet / day and continue taking it for 7 days after returning to Cape Town. My body will be full of the stuff for some time…. Sadly, the truth is no malaria medication can boast 100 percent protection from the disease. If you want to be safe, it’s necessary to take multiple precautions or be ready to suffer the consequences.
There are more interesting blog subjects but malaria is a big deal in parts of Africa. I pondered forgetting the tablets, taking plenty of deet and permethrin, wearing long pants and sleeves, and being careful when most mosquito bites occur – dusk to dawn. After talking to doctors 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 deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children under the age of five. Deaths are related to 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 various side effects, including pulmonary edema, severe anemia, breathing problems, and kidney, liver, or spleen failure. Some forms of malaria even cause low blood sugar – it’s a nasty disease!
You get malaria when bitten by an infected female mosquito carrying a parasite called Plasmodium. Plasmodium parasites carry the disease to your liver and eventually infect the 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.
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 parasite variety that causes the most lethal complications is commonly found south of the Sahara Desert where I will be for almost two months!
Last year while traveling in Peru I picked up an amoeba. It was the result of 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….