Medics and Tourists Require Better Education for Malaria

chicago - Doctors and travelers need better education about avoiding malaria, because the disease has become drug-resistant in places and knowledge is still evolving about anti-malarial drugs, a new report says.

Up to 30,000 North American and European travelers contract malaria annually when traveling to areas where mosquitoes carry the disease, federal researchers said in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fatality rates in such cases are estimated at anywhere from 120 to 2,100 people each year, said the researchers, Drs Hans Lobeland and Phyllis Kozarsky of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Risks of catching malaria vary in different parts of the world. Drug resistance in many places now makes it important for physicians and travelers to get the latest information from the CDC or the World Health Organization, which publish country-specific brochures and offer information through the Internet, researchers said.

The effectiveness and tolerance of mefloquine, the main drug given to travelers, allow prevention guidelines to be simple for most people, researchers said. But sometimes other drugs like doxycycline, chloroquine, proguanil, and primaquine are used, they said.

"Few new drugs will be available in the near future because of reduced funding for antimalarial drug research and development. Therefore, the usefulness of currently available drugs needs to be prolonged by rational use,'' researchers said.

In a related report in the journal, British researchers said malaria deaths and illnesses in Venezuela surged by 37 percent in years after El Nino weather phenomena. The weather system brings reduced rainfall and fewer mosquito hatchings, perhaps reducing people's exposure and immunity the following year, researchers said.(Dec 18, 1997)