Malaria Prophylaxis

What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms usually appear within in 7-30 days but can take up to one year to develop. Symptoms include high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Without treatment, malaria can cause severe illness and even death.

Who is at risk?

Malaria occurs in Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. People spending time outdoors, including sleeping outside, are at higher risk for malaria. Every year about 1500 cases of malaria and 5 deaths occur among international travelers from the United States.

What can travelers do to prevent malaria?

Travelers can protect themselves from malaria by taking prescription medicine and preventing mosquito bites. Take prescription medicine if recommended for your destination. For more information, see Mosquito Safety/Vector Avoidance.

How and where can I obtain antimalarial drugs?

  • Visit your health care provider 4 to 6 weeks before travel for a prescription for an antimalarial drug based on your travel itinerary and medical history.
  • Antimalarial drugs are available in the United States by prescription only.
  • Some antimalarial drugs can be started the day before travel and so last-minute travelers can still benefit from a visit to their health-care provider before traveling.
  • Obtain your prescription before you travel rather than at your destination because buying medications abroad has its risks. They could be of poor quality, contaminated, or counterfeit and therefore not protect you from malaria.
  • All medicines may have some side effects. Minor side effects such as nausea, occasional vomiting, or diarrhea usually do not require stopping the antimalarial drug. If you have side effects that are too uncomfortable, see your health care provider; other antimalarial drugs are available.

If you feel sick and think you may have malaria

Seek medical attention if you feel ill, especially if you have a fever up to 1 year after travel. You can also call the Travel Clinic to discuss your symptoms with one of our providers to decide if you need to be seen on an urgent basis.

Where can I obtain more information about malaria?

For informatioh about malaria for U.S. residetnts who travel to countries where malaria is present, visit Malaria and Travelers for U.S. Residents on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Page reviewed on: Mar 09, 2017

Page reviewed by: Jessie L. Leyse, MD