Can I contract malaria during a safari in Kenya?

Malaria is a parasitic disease, caused by different microorganisms all belonging to Plasmodium group which infect red blood cells. 

It is most commonly spread by an infected female mosquito belonging to genus Anopheles, which is similar to the common mosquitos and is active during night and crepuscular hours. 

The mosquito bite introduces the parasite through its saliva into a person’s blood. The transimission comes when a mosquito bites an infected person and then an uninfected person, who become infected in turn.  The parasites (plasmodio) travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce, then they return to the bloodstream where they infect red blood cells.

23

MAY 2020

Malaria

Mosquitoes

Kenya

Life Cycle of Malaria

The signs and symptoms of malaria typically begin 8–25 days following infection, but it may occur later in those who have taken antimalarial medications as prevention. Initial manifestations of the disease are similar to flu symptoms, like headache, fever, shivering, joint paint, vomiting, convulsions. 

The classic symptom of malaria is paroxysm,  a cyclical occurrence of sudden coldness followed by shivering and then fever and sweating, occurring every two or three days depending on the species of Plasmodium. P. falciparum infection, the most severe, can cause recurrent fever every 36–48 hours, or a less pronounced and almost continuous fever.

The risk of contracting the disease can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites through the use of mosquito nets (available in all camps and lodges during our safaris), and insect repellents. We suggest to spread insect repellent in the crepuscular and night hours on eventual uncovered body parts, wear long-sleeve and long pants from late afternoon, especially not black in color because black attracts mosquitoes and other insects, avoid leaving windows and doors open after sunset.

“…we didn’t take antimalarial prevention before to come to Kenya and everything was fine. We saw some mosquitos when we were on the coast, we didn’t see even one on our safari. Thanks Sara and Emanuel for all the suggestions given.”. William

In 2018 the WHO estimates there were more than 200 million cases of malaria and about 400.000 deaths worldwide. Children under 5 years old are the most affected. There are about 10.000 malaria cases per year in Western Europe, and 1300–1500 in the United States.

Malaria is presently endemic in a broad band around the equator, in areas of the Americas, many parts of Asia, and much of Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 85–90% of malaria fatalities occur. An estimate for 2009 reported that countries with the highest death rate per 100,000 of population were Ivory Coast, Angola and Burkina Faso.  A 2010 estimate indicated the deadliest countries per population were Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Mali.  

 

Anopheles distribution map

Source: Wikipedia

Chironius scurrulus bitten by a mosquito

Nowadays in Kenya, there are an estimated 3,5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year, and those living in western Kenya have an especially high risk of malaria. All land lying at altitudes above 1600 meters including Nairobi and Mount Kenya and its surroundings are malaria-free (Sources: cdc.gov; pubmed.gov).

Also Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park, Lake Nakuru and other reserves and conservancy are above 1600 metres.

Despite data, cases and deaths on the coast and turistic areas have dropped in recent years. We have been living on Kenyan coast since 2012 and we never contracted malaria, without taking any antimalarial prevention (we anyway couldn’t take it since we live in Kenya all the year round, and mediacal treatments for prevention may cause disturbing side effects).

So, another reason why to visit Kenya without worries is that malaria can be totally cured with a medicine called Coartem, derived from Artemisia Annua.

This medicine cures the disease completely, with no risk of reoccurrences, which may occur, instead, in case it is cured with the same treatments used as prevention, like done for example in Europe. That is why we suggest all our guests, as a precaution, to buy Coartem in Kenya before to come back home, since the medicine is not found all over the world and, at the same time, is very cheap.

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