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4 November 2011 / leggypeggy

On malaria—a reality in much of the world

Water—the breeding ground for mosquitos.

In the western world, malaria is something we hear about but rarely encounter—in much of the developing world, it’s a deadly reality.

In the mid-1970s, when I first travelled in Africa, I was told that 1 in 10 travellers would get malaria regardless of what prophylactic they took. It seemed an odd statistic but, in my experience, it’s been pretty much accurate ever since.

Nine of us travelled north to south through The Sudan in 1977 and one (not me) got malaria. I can’t even remember what prophylactic I took, or if I took any, but I’ve always been obsessive about using bug repellent. Maybe that helped.

In the 1980s, we lived in Burma. None of the family took prophylactics, but we used plenty of powerful bug repellent and were vigilant about spraying any standing water near the house. The kids always slept under mosquito nets. None of us got malaria, but a friend did and he took at least three weeks to recover enough to fly home to Australia. Another friend’s son spent many weeks in the jungle. He got cerebral malaria and died within hours of becoming sick.

A couple of years ago, we did a Trans-Africa trip (10+ months and 43,000 kilometres). Twenty-eight of us started the trip and, with various comings and goings, a total of 38 people did some of the trip. Four got malaria. Two weren’t taking any prophylactic (a fellow who was only doing the first 13 weeks and the driver, who lived in Africa and got malaria often). Of the other two, one was taking doxycycline (also known as doxy and the most common option) and the other was taking malarone (the most expensive option).

We took doxy and, in addition to protecting us from malaria, we think its antibiotic properties may have helped to keep us well during the trip. But you can’t take malaria prophylactics forever.

For this trip, the Travel Doctor in Australia said that unless we spent most of our time in remote areas in southeast Asia, we were most likely okay without taking doxy. We’ve used a lot of bug repellent and, on the few nights we were in remote areas, we also covered up with long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Some of the places we’ve stayed have provided mosquito nets and that’s a big bonus.

So far so good. I hope I can still say that in a few weeks time because, in reality, mosquitos ignore lots of repellents and can bite through clothes. If you travel in malaria country, use common sense and seek a doctor’s advice on what you should do.

16 Comments

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  1. Louise M Oliver / Nov 4 2011 7:02 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    I know you and Poor John won’t take any risks so I hope that keeps you safe and well. Take care as always.

    Best wishes
    Louise

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  2. Derrick / Nov 5 2011 12:44 am

    When I was in the Army, we used to take Paludrin, I dunno if it ever worked, I covered myself in DEET, wore long trousers and long sleeves,(if anyone did get malaria, it was considered self inflicted and you would be on a charge, no one got it, but there were locals who did get it and o’boy did they suffer, but that was back in the 70’s, 80’s)

    When I went to Africa, I took Doxy, I dunno if they worked, it was DEET again, I never had any bites, but I lived in shorts and tee shirts

    But on a different tack, I did pull a calf muscle climbing a dam mountain (but it was work it), then had problems with Achilles tendons, which did curtail a lot of the walking/climbing/hiking it took 8 weeks to get them sorted when I got back to the UK,,tri weekly visits to a physio,

    I’m hoping this dont re-occur, but I have put compression bandages in my bag, just in case (but I was told the only cure is rest, with legs up and ice packs, that just dont work on a trek 😦

    I did see a few cases of malaria out there, but everyone had nets, all donated by some charity or another,

    I never had or used one, maybe it was the time of year, maybe the mozzies werent out then, but I wil be taking Doxy with me, just in case (not really sure where I’ll take them though, maybe you could update me, please ?)

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    • leggypeggy / Nov 5 2011 11:04 am

      You are really very, very lucky if you never got a mosquito bite. I think these days, the mozzies manage to fight their way through 100 per cent DEET. But long trousers and long sleeves make a huge difference, and I urge people to use this approach at night even if they are sweltering. The malaria-carrying mozzies are active at dusk and early evening.

      As an aside, the Australian Army gives its soldiers Doxy, with the view that it is effective, but with the fewest serious side effects. I also know that no one is ‘on charge’ if they do get malaria.

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      • Derrick / Nov 5 2011 11:22 am

        All Army’s now are all PC,

        The NCO’s cant beast them like they used to 😦

        ah bring back the good old days, going round the back to sort out the sprogs, painting coal white, spud bashing, bulling boots till you could shave in the reflection, being able to shave with crease in your trousers, happy days 😉

        There was a couple of Aussies who went for selection, when I was there, they wre in the Aussie unit, but wanted to see what our selection was like, they did well, I had an aussie in my troop, along with a Kiwi

        I did get bed bug bites from a hotel in Southport, does that count ? I wasnt useing DEET then 🙂

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  3. leggypeggy / Nov 5 2011 11:36 am

    Bed bugs! You made me laugh.They’re vicious and I suppose they do count. Don’t know if DEET fends them off. By the way, DEET doesn’t do a damn thing against fleas—another reason to avoid dogs.

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    • Derrick / Nov 5 2011 11:49 am

      DEET aint much good at stopping the wife either 😦

      Darkest Southport is the last place I would have thought I would need DEET 😉

      the little buggers always bit you where you couldnt scratch or reach 😦

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  4. Dorothy / Mar 1 2015 3:02 pm

    The trouble with taking paludrin(daily) or daraprin(weekly)for preventing malaria is the quinine content, I found paludrin too strong and it causes miscarriages. I had four while in Nigeria. The doctors dont warn you, I figured the cause and always kept a stock of the weeky one as it did not have this effect. I still got malaria as I forgot to take it by one day and they were clearing the storm drains which disturbed thousands of them. Luckily I was treated quickly and over it in a week but it did recurr for about three years and would make me shake for a few hours then throw up. It was out of my system before we went to PNG and I didnt take anything for it there and was very healthy so it must have helped my immune system.

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    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 12:46 am

      I’ve always taken doxycycline and found it very effective. Shocking fact about the paludrin and such a shame the doctors don’t tell you. I don’t think it and daraprin are sold in Australia. Our military troops take doxy.

      Like

  5. Derrick / Mar 1 2015 3:21 pm

    WOW, how old is this ?
    mind you its quite topical after the bout of malaria I had
    I went to Africa for a second time
    Yup I took paludrine again, but I dont think it or the DEET worked, I got bit (or stung) and I was in a really bad way and I came home, I didnt want to be treated in African hospital (there was ebola around and everyone was have temperatures taken at borders) they cant even treat their own people with malaria
    the doctor at the hospital said I had it for 27 days (dont know how he worked that out)
    But I went into a coma before I even got to the hospital (it happened at home and the wife called the emergency services)
    If I do take any anti malia drugs again, I think it will have to be Doxy

    Like

    • Dorothy Webster / Mar 1 2015 4:29 pm

      Okay it was a long time ago, 1972. I did not go to hospital, our Doctor came to the house and treated me with pills. It was not as painful as sandfly fever, I lost a stone in five days with that.

      Like

      • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 12:29 am

        Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine the pain of sandfly fever. You are one tough cookie, and thin too!

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    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 12:47 am

      I wrote this almost four years ago. I was so sad to hear about your malaria, Derrick, but relieved you have recovered so well. You were one very, very sick guy.

      Like

      • Derrick / Mar 4 2015 12:53 am

        Dont I know it, ICU, in a coma, but I am really grateful for the the nurses and doctors in Hillingdon hospital, what can you say to someone that has saved your life Thank you seems so inadequate (I bought them a huge box of chocolates, but it just dont seem enough)
        I guess 4 years ago I should have read this
        Its now doxy for me

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      • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 3:29 am

        It’s virtually impossible to say thank you enough, but chocolates are a good start. Hope doxy does the job for you.

        Like

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