09 Nov 2021

Malaria reminder during COVID-19 pandemic

Advice for travellers and health professionals Malaria reminder during COVID-19 pandemic
  • This updates the news item of 6 October 2021

Malaria is a preventable, potentially fatal illness. Reducing deaths from imported malaria relies on:

  • Awareness of the malaria risk in travellers and use of preventative measures including mosquito bite avoidance and chemoprophylaxis (malaria tablets) where indicated
  • Febrile travellers seeking prompt healthcare
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria

In 2019, there was a marked increase in the number of notified malaria deaths in the UK; from the annual average of six to 15 patients [1]. The Malaria Reference Laboratory is currently investigating the reasons for these deaths.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals present with a fever. Some will have Plasmodium falciparum malaria which will prove fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated.

Advice for travellers

Keep up to date with the latest official travel requirements and restrictions for the UK and the countries you are travelling to. All countries may impose travel restrictions without notice. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provide country-specific information. The rules for returning to the UK can be found on GOV.UK. There is also some general travel advice on our website to check before booking a trip.

If you are visiting a malaria risk area, ensure that you follow all the important steps for malaria prevention:

A - Awareness of the malaria risk at your chosen destination
B - Bite prevention
C - Chemoprophylaxis (appropriate choice of antimalarial medication and compliance with the regime)
D - Diagnosis if you develop symptoms of malaria you should seek prompt medical advice without delay

Although modern prevention methods are highly effective and can greatly reduce your risk of dying from this dangerous disease, they do not give 100% protection.

If you or any of your family has a fever or flu-like illness after being in a country with malaria you must see your doctor urgently. Tell them where you have been and mention malaria. Remember you could still have malaria, even a year after a trip to a malaria-risk region [2].

Individual country specific malaria risk and prevention advice is available in the Country Information pages.

Advice for health professionals

All those being assessed for possible COVID-19 must be asked if they have travelled abroad.

Malaria should be suspected in anyone with a fever or a history of fever who has returned from or previously visited a malaria endemic area, regardless of whether they have taken prophylaxis. The minimum incubation period for naturally acquired infection is six days. Most patients with Plasmodium falciparum infection present in the first month or months after exposure; almost all present within six months of exposure. Vivax or ovale infections commonly present later than six months after exposure and presentation may be delayed for years [3].

If a traveller’s itinerary included travel to a malaria endemic area, they must have a blood test result for malaria on the same day.

Resources

Winter travel 2021/2022

While the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, travellers also need to be aware of other potential risks during winter travel Read more

COVID-19 update to guidance

The COVID-19 country risk categorisation guidance has been reviewed Read more

Ebola: new outbreak in DRC

Recurrence of Ebola virus disease reported in Democratic Republic of the Congo Read more

Public Health England becomes UK Health Security Agency

On 1 October 2021 PHE officially becomes the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Read more
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