This site is intended for health professionals only

Website malaria warnings urged

Health experts have urged travel websites to provide "explicit" warnings on the risk of malaria.

Experts in infectious diseases have revealed that three Britons were admitted to hospital with severe malaria within two weeks of coming home from Gambia.

The sufferers did not take anti-malaria tablets, booking through the same website with two booking late, and none sought proper medical advice.

The experts said in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that imported cases were relatively common, most originating in West Africa (813 of 1,495 cases in 2009), with a considerable proportion in holidaymakers (57 in 2009).

They said in a letter: "The Gambia is a popular winter sun destination for UK travellers. Malaria is highly endemic there and is a risk to travellers throughout the year."

This risk could be avoided by taking appropriate chemoprophylaxis tablets and taking action to cover up or use sprays and creams to avoid bites, said the authors, from James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Malaria hotspots

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I have worked in the medical field of implementing travel advice for many years and I would agree with the comments regarding the reaction from travellers who object to paying for malaria prophylaxsis. Why?!! If people wish to travel to countries where they know they are at risk of a very serious illness are they prepared to protect themselves? Is it lack
of awareness or it wont happen to me syndrome. Its just a few quid, it may save your life .In this day of modern travel, perhaps there should be more government involvement in bringing about public awareness of a life-threatening disease. If people invest money in holidays surely they can invest in their lives, take ownership and stop expecting every other taxpayer to subsidise them" - Susan Latham, Lancashire

"I agree with the previous posters. I feel strongly that travel agents have a duty of care to at least tell their customers to seek advice about the need for vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis. People's lives are at risk!" - Carol King, Derbyshire

"In reply to J Hanson (Rochdale) and Pauline Filby (Chelmsford) perhaps we should use our local practice nurse groups and other professional organisations to help us get our point across to the health minister about the dangerous advice given by travel agents. I know Pauline was involved in Chelmsford's local practice nurse group. Maybe we can start
gathering evidence of poor advice to pass on" - Christine Miles, Canvey Island

"I had a young lady backpacking through India and told by the travel agent she needed nothing! I wrote to the minister of health at the time - but nothing changes!" - Pauline Filby, Chelmsford

"Why not make it compulsory for travel agent/websites to give appropriate advise on vaccine required and specific health risks associated with a particular area" - Christine Miles

"I have experienced travel agents telling travellers they do not need vaccinations or malaria prophylaxis for the Gambia. I have written to 2 such local agents with no response. They need to be accountable in advising appropriate advice or tell travellers to get advice from health professionals" - J Hanson, Rochdale

"I wrote to Cheryl Cole on 12 July 2010 to front an anti-malarial campaign in her home town, Newcastle, and I am still awaiting a reply. Good luck!" - Joelle Murray, Newcastle

"I think travel agencies are the worst offenders for selling last minute holidays to high risk places without giving advise that they must go to their surgery and get vaccinations or, more to the point that if they book they will run a risk about their health  as there is not enough time to get the jabs" - Jane, Cambridge

"I did a travel consultation today for a couple that were going on a cruise to Indonesia, which took in a trip to one of the highly malarious islands. I gave advice re taking tabs 1-2 before entering endemic area etc etc. They wanted to order one pack of twelve tablets between them as they had 6
tabs left from a previous trip. This would give them the exact amount if they started the tablets 1 day before travel to the endemic area thus leaving no room for manoeuvre shoud they vomit or accidentally lose a tab down the plug hole. Why oh why are people so penny pinching and so willing to put their health at risk to save money, yet they spend thousands on a
cruise!" - Anne St.Pier, Essex

"I have worked abroad and have had to deal with everything from medical emergencies where repatriation was necessary to STIs and earache. It never failed to amaze me how ignorant people are despite admitting to having had a travel appointment at their local surgery before they travelled. Despite "explicit" advice including insurance cover for health
and emergencies and their responsibility to mitigate this insurance, some of my patients still do not comply with advice, either by ignoring the risk completely or not taking the malaria tablets properly, (as with antibiotics and other medication.)  Many people have the blase attitude that the NHS will pick up the tab if they become ill and give little thought to what will happen if this actually happens when they are abroad.
Many do not realise that they still have to pay for a lot of medical treatment at the point of delivery, despite having their health insurance card. People will happily pay thousands on a luxury holiday and then complain at the cost of malaria tablets, and once they leave the consultation with their private script in hand, we have little control over whether they actually take them appropriately or even whether they get them dispensed!" - Name and address supplied

"Not all travel websites give the same information ie Pakistan for example at present gives different advice on Nathnac to Travax to WHO, who do we believe?" - Karen Humby, Birmingham

"Now wouldn't you think somebody in the health service bureaucracy might think to run a campaign using everyone's favourite, Cheryl Cole, to help promote importance of taking effective measures to prevent this very debilitating illness. Bet she'd do it for nothing too!" - Helen Healy, Dundee