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HPA: Malaria medication 'a must'

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Health experts are advising overseas travellers to protect themselves with anti-malaria medication after a near 30% rise in the number of cases over the past two years.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), from 1,370 cases in 2008, incidents in the UK went up to 1,495 in 2009 and 1,761 in 2010 - figures which include British citizens and visitors to the country.

The right kind of anti-malaria pills are as important a safeguard for people going abroad as a good travel insurance policy.

In around 85% of cases where experts had data, the victims had travelled to countries where the disease is endemic without taking adequate medication.

Two out of five UK residents who came down with malaria last year had visited Nigeria or Ghana, while 11% had been to India.

The disease is transmitted through mosquito bites and its symptoms can emerge in just eight days. In some cases the parasite can remain dormant in the body for up to a year.

Five types of anti-malarial drugs are currently available for people heading overseas. Travellers should consult their GP and take the required precautions, said Professor Peter Chiodini, from the HPA's malaria reference laboratory.

He added: "Even people living in Britain visiting the country in which they were born or grew up, or have previously visited, are not immune from malaria and should take precautions."

According to the HPA, people who visit friends and relatives are at greater risk of other travel-related infectious diseases, compared to business or holiday travellers, because they tend to travel for longer periods of time and usually stay with family or friends.

© Press Association 2011