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Malaria warning for travellers to the Gambia

After a miserable summer in the UK, the attraction of winter sun destinations is high and despite reports last month that malaria incidence in the Gambia fell, the risk of falciparum malaria there remains significant for travellers.

The European Communicable Diseases Centre reports a cluster of 8 cases of severe malaria with one death in Danish short-term travellers to The Gambia. In October and November 11 similar cases were reported in Finland, 5 in the Netherlands and 13 in the UK.

Media attention in Scandinavia has enhanced public awareness but there has been little media interest in the UK.

Most of the travellers had not taken malaria chemoprophylaxis and this may reflect the trend towards booking of winter holidays on the internet rather than through travel agents, who are more likely to issue verbal warnings about the malaria risk.

Last-minute internet-booked travellers are at particular risk and if they contact GP services at all, may do so only a few days before travel. Lives will be saved if:

  • GP receptionists remember it is never too late to vaccinate a last-minute traveller
  • those vaccinating last-minute travellers remember to check whether anti-malarial prophylaxis is needed
  • a travel history is taken in all patients who consult their GP with flu.

Malaria is again causing problems for travellers to The Gambia Malaria is again causing problems for travellers to The Gambia

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