This is the first question asked when travelling to southern Africa. Malaria is a serious health risk in the region and visitors should take the necessary precautions. The Department of Health in collaboration with the National Malaria Advisory Group recently published up-to-date guidelines for the prevention and treatment of malaria.
The most important step is to prevent mosquito bites. An anti-mosquito spray or lotion should be applied to exposed areas of the body after dark, and protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants worn.
Visitors should also sleep under mosquito nets and burn mosquito coils or spray the sleeping area with an anti-mosquito spray.
Taking a prophylactic anti-malarial drug is essential, and certain factors influence selection. Malaria-risk areas can be divided into chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant areas, according to the susceptibility of the malaria parasites in the area to the antimalarial drug chloroquine.
Be sure to determine what type of area you will be visiting and obtain drugs accordingly. Chloroquine (chloroquine-sensitive areas) or chloroquine plus proguanil or mefloquine (chloroquine-resistant areas) is recommended.
There are a few areas where resistance to both chloroquine and mefloquine occurs and for these doxycycline is recommended.
Bear in mind that some brands have side effects, particularly mefloquine, and it is extremely important to finish the prophylactic course which involves taking the anti-malarial drug for at least six weeks after leaving a malarial area.
Don't be tempted to travel without anti-malaria drugs and don't believe rumours that they make things worse if you do contract malaria - that is simply not true.