Despite decades of control success and a competent country-wide health infrastructure, malaria remains an important health threat in rural Thailand. While Malaria risk is present throughout the country, major urban areas are generally very low risk, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui. The endemic areas are typically the hilly or forested areas. Most cases are from the border areas of Thailand especially Thai-Myanmar and Thai-Cambodia border.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a protozoa. There are four kinds of malaria parasites which can infect humans are Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, P.ovalae.
How is Malaria transmitted?
Usually, people get malaria after being bitten by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Only this specific species of mosquito can transmit malaria and they mainly bite during the night. When the infected mosquito bites the host passing on the infection, the parasites reach the human bloodstream and enter the red blood cells where the quickly multiply and rupture the cells. This process is then replicated in other new red blood cells damaging multiple organs.
Because the malaria is found in human blood, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood.
Malaria is not transmitted from person to person like a cold or flu. You cannot get malaria from casual contact with malaria-infected people.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
Symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.
Malaria may cause pallor and jaundice (yellow coloring of the eyes and skin). Infection with P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, seizures, coma and leading to death.
For most people, symptoms begin 7 days to 8 weeks after infection and follow a typical cyclical pattern lasting 4-6 hours every 2-3 days.
Two kinds of malaria ie P.vivax and P.ovalae can remain dormant in the liver for several months and up to 4 years.
What is the treatment of Malaria?
Malaria is a treatable disease especially when it is treated early. The type of drugs and length of treatment depend on which kind of malaria is diagnosed, how severe are the symptoms and the age of the patient. If you suffer from symptoms listed above and have travelled in an area where malaria is common, you should immediately check with your doctor.
What is the best method to prevent Malaria?
If you are traveling into a high-risk area then you should seek advice from your Doctor on the best ways to prevent Malaria.
Here are some top tips for prevention:
- Always sleep under a bed net.
- Use insect repellents. Apply the repellent on exposed part of the body for every 3-4 hours especially after the sunset. Repellents are available at any local drug store.
Ask for "Yah TahGahn Yoong".
What is the recommended antimalarial prophylaxis in Thailand?
Malaria chemoprophylaxis is not recommended in Thailand. Malaria, in Thailand, is the multi-drug resistant strain. That means limited malaria tablets can protect you against malaria in Thailand and can often cause unpleasant side effects. Antimalarial prophylaxis can be used in specific situations only. Speak with a qualified medical doctor or discuss with your healthcare provider for medical advice and which antimalarial regimen is best suited to your needs.