06 Nov 2020

Malaria reminder during COVID-19 pandemic

Advice for travellers and health professionals Malaria reminder during COVID-19 pandemic
  • This updates the news item of 9 July 2020

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

  • Good malaria prevention advice and adherence
  • Febrile returning travellers seeking prompt healthcare
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria

Last year 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

You should check and follow any national restrictions, including restrictions on international travel, that apply for UK residents in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland [2]. Where travel is essential, you should check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for your destination and our general advice for travellers before booking a trip.

If your travel is essential, 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 (prompt diagnosis and treatment without delay)

In the current emergency, please be aware that if you have returned from a malarious area in the last six months and have fever, you need a malaria film the same day that you develop fever.

Travellers returning from malaria risk areas who are ill should seek urgent medical advice and inform the health professional that they have travelled to a malarious area in the last six months.

If you have a fever and are phoning NHS 111 for advice, please state that you have returned from a malaria area and need a malaria film. They will advise how you can travel safely to your local A&E department for this to be carried out.

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 in the last 6 months. If their itinerary included a malarious country, they must have a blood test result for malaria on the same day.


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