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Can money buy immunity?

Travel can lead us anywhere. Trips can be planned years in advance or right at the last minute; the destination can be just a few miles away or on the ...

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|Jun 8|magazine10 min read

Travel can lead us anywhere. Trips can be planned years in advance or right at the last minute; the destination can be just a few miles away or on the other side of the world. Holidays can also range from once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to youngsters ‘slumming it’ on gap years or wealthy business executives enjoying the creature comforts of the latest luxury five-star resort. The one thing holidays do have in common? The risk of tropical diseases and the need for travel vaccinations.

The risk of disease and illness varies along with destinations and different areas of the country that you are visiting. Polio, typhoid, yellow fever; none of these sound very inviting and they are only three examples of what travellers are at risk from when they go abroad.

 Malaria is one tropical disease that has received a fair amount of media attention in recent times. News stories have covered scientists edging closer to a cure, famous celebrities who have fallen suspect to the illness and a startling rise in the number of diagnosed cases among travellers.

Commonly spread by mosquitoes that are already infected with the malaria parasite, it can be a fatal disease. Just one bite is enough to contract malaria if the parasite is injected into the bloodstream; the most serious is the falciparum parasite. Malaria is present in many areas of the world and particularly prevalent in Africa, South-East Asia and South America.

The most common precaution that travellers take when visiting malaria hotspots is to take anti-malarial tablets before, during and after their trip. The type of anti-malaria medication you need will be dependent on the area of the world that you are visiting. The key to malaria prevention is preparation. Most courses of anti-malarials need to be taken six to eight weeks before travel and in some cases they need to be taken during and after the trip.

This can be a particular hindrance to the rather glamorous image of wealthy travellers jetting off in a private plane to a luxurious island whenever they wish; although possible sometimes it is just not practical as the health risks of a destination need to be considered.

Complacency is also a contributing factor to the contraction of malaria, as some people think they become ‘immune’ to the risk. This is particularly true of business travellers who often have to go abroad at late notice: “Frequent business travellers are particularly at risk as the familiarity of travel often means that they take the threat of malaria less seriously,” says the websitemalariahotspots.co.uk. “It doesn't just affect people travelling ‘rough’ or for extended periods of time. It can affect anyone, even if they are on a short business trip and staying in five star accommodation.”

The quality of the resort or accommodation can lead to another common misconception about malaria; that the disease cannot infiltrate luxurious areas. Studies have proven some holidaymakers think they are less at risk of catching malaria if they are staying in a five star hotel and as a result some people do not take anti-malaria medication. It has also been discovered that many business travellers are unaware they should seek medical advice after their trip, resulting in them being a high-risk group for contracting malaria.

However, there are some areas and travel destinations that market themselves as being exclusively ‘malaria-free’. African safaris and game reserves dominate the malaria-free travel market offering the ultimate luxury in safari adventure and ecotourism. The Shamwari Game Reserve is just one of many malaria-free exclusive destinations. It showcases ‘Africa’s Big 5’ animals (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalo) and provides guests with deluxe lodges and facilities to compliment the tranquil settings. The Shamwari confidently states on its website its malaria-free status and claims there is no need to take preventative malaria medication, although for peace of mind there is no harm in asking a healthcare professional about the precautions required for any malaria-free destination.

However, the key thing to remember is that malaria does not pick and choose its victims based on the standard of hotel or resort and no one is immune to the disease.