With an increase in incidence of Malaria in Qatar, the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has advised people travelling abroad to take necessary precautions against the disease.
The cases are on the rise due to the increased influx of foreign workers to the country and all the patients get infected abroad, especially in countries where the disease is endemic, said an HMC expert.
The number of cases increased from 211 in 2008 to 708 in 2012 and all those affected last year, except two, were expatriates, according to data released by the Qatar Statistics Authority last week.
“There is no malaria case where the disease was acquired locally. All the patients get the infection from outside the country, as many people come to Qatar from endemic countries. Also, when residents have been in Qatar for a long time and go back to visit their countries, they may have lower immunity to the disease because they have not been exposed to it for some time,” said Dr Hussam Al Soub, Senior Consultant – Infectious Diseases at HMC.
“Malaria is a serious but preventable disease. People just need to be aware and observe precautions to protect themselves. Precautions are simple and are not costly, but they can prevent the serious disease,” he added.
The World Malaria Day was observed on April 25 under the theme, “Invest in the future. Defeat malaria.”
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were about 219 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths from the disease, mostly among African children.
People at risk of developing severe illness from malaria include children, pregnant women, people with a weak immune system and international travellers from non-endemic areas. Pregnant women in general are advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Al Soub advised travellers to be aware of whether malaria is common in the country or areas they are travelling to. Some regions affected by malaria include Africa, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Southeast Asia and Latin America.
“When visiting endemic areas, people should use mosquito nets especially insecticide-treated nets which are designed to repel and kill mosquitoes. Avoid going outside during night time, as infected mosquitoes bite mainly during this time. If you have to go outside, you can wear long sleeves or apply insect-repellent creams to your skin,” said Al Soub.
Travellers have also been advised to consult a doctor before the trip or visit a clinic that offers travel medicine such as the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Clinic at the Mesaimeer Primary Health Center. There are no licensed vaccines against malaria, but there are medicines that can be taken to prevent the disease. These medications can be had for a certain period before travel, during one’s stay in endemic places, and for a period after one’s return.
Symptoms of malaria usually appear within 7 to 30 days of infection. Travellers are advised to immediately visit the Emergency Department or a primary health centre if they experience chills, fever, headache and vomiting, which may be symptoms of malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, the infection can progress to severe illness often leading to death.
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