Online sellers need clearer malaria warnings

Cases of tourists contracting malaria after buying last-minute trips

Online travel agents offering last-minute deals are being urged to give clearer warnings to consumers about malaria risks. This is because there is little time to visit the doctor for medical advice or organise medicine that prevents malaria and other diseases, a group of leading doctors in the UK have said in a letter to the British Medical Journal.

“Imported cases of malaria are relatively common in the UK, mostly from West Africa, with a considerable proportion occurring in holidaymakers,” the doctors warn, each of whom is a specialist in infectious diseases. They give the recent example of three British tourists who booked a tour to Gambia through the same travel website and who had not had time to find medical advice before travelling. All three were taken to hospital with severe malaria within two weeks of returning home. “The Gambia is a popular winter sun destination for UK travellers,” the letter continues.

“Malaria is highly endemic there and is a risk to travellers throughout the year. This risk could be avoided by taking appropriate chemoprophylaxis tablets and taking action to cover up or use sprays and creams to avoid bites. “The increasing use of websites to make late holiday bookings can make it more difficult to organise medical advice and malaria chemoprophylaxis.

“In addition, many travel websites and holiday brochures – including the website used by our patients – make no specific reference to the risk of contracting malaria. “Travel websites need to include explicit messages about taking medical advice and effective chemoprophylaxis before travelling to malaria endemic areas. Advice on allowing sufficient time to organise this might reduce the particular risk to people making late bookings.”

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