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Malaria in Colombia – 5 Facts
South American vacations offer novelty and excitement, but when traveling through that region, it’s wise to take the necessary preventative health measures. Serious diseases can be common in parts of South American countries. These days, travel agents will give you plenty of information on destinations, restaurants and some advice on how to avoid getting ill, but even so, it pays to do your own independent research.
Embarking on South America tours will generally involve getting shots to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and rabies. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to get shots for everything. There are no shots to prevent malaria, which is often highly prevalent in countries with large populations, mass migration, and poor sanitation. Not all South America tour operators offer enough information on what to do to prevent it, and what help to get if you do get it.
All areas of Colombia below 5,577 ft are likely to have malaria-infested regions, particularly the less urban sections. Large cities where there are low to no cases of malaria are Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena.
What Is Malaria?
Malaria is a serious illness. If not correctly treated, it can cause jaundice and anemia, and these, in turn, can result in a coma or kidney failure. Malaria is spread from mosquito bites, and symptoms occur about a week after a bite. The symptoms of malaria include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, body aches, headaches, sweating, and chills. In most cases, it is almost impossible to recover without treatment, and if not treated in time, or not treated at all, it can even be fatal.
High Risk of Malaria On A Colombia Vacation
If your South America vacation includes Colombia, you need to ask your doctor about what you can do to avoid getting ill with malaria. When embarking on a Colombia vacation, take the necessary precautions before leaving the United States. Be well-prepared to protect against malaria and have the right drugs on hand, just in case. Should you need to visit a doctor there, some knowledge about anti-malarial drugs will prevent you from being given the wrong medication.
With a population of 45 million, it hasn’t been easy for health authorities in Colombia to quell the spread of malaria. Colombia’s tropical climate, unsanitary living condition and pools of stagnant water, makes it difficult to contain this vector-borne illness. About 75% of malaria cases abound along cities and towns along the Pacific Coast. Cauca, Valle, Choco, Antioquia, and Cordoba have reported the highest incidents of malaria in the country.
According to a survey done in 2008 by the National Institute of Health, 110,000 cases of malaria were reported in Colombia. It is estimated that this number has not decreased in 2011 because no effective measures have yet been found to prevent the spread of malaria in Colombia.
What, then, are the steps you need to take if your trip to South America includes Colombia? Here are a few commonsense steps to help prevent malaria:
• Begin taking your prescription anti-malarial pills before traveling, and regularly during your trip.
• Use insect repellant.
• Wear long pants, not shorts or skirts, and shirts with sleeves.
• Sleep in air-conditioned rooms, or rooms with screens or bed nets.
Effective And Ineffective Anti-Malarial Drugs
Effective drugs include mefloquine, doxycycline, or Atovaquone-proguanil. It’s important to note that chloroquine is not effective as an antimalarial drug for a Colombia vacation. Although halofantrine is widely prescribed overseas for malaria, we strongly advise against taking this drug because it can have serious side effects, including heart attacks. In fact, it is better to buy your anti-malarial drugs in the United States to ensure that you get real drugs, not counterfeit medications or contaminated medications.
Malaria is a serious illness, but shouldn’t keep you from enjoying virgin Caribbean beaches, lush Amazon jungles, and delicious Latin cuisine on a Colombia vacation. Just be prepared for your peace of mind.
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