Mosquito - up close and personal. Photo courtesy Fox News

Traveling the world? Remember to Protect Against Malaria
Fox News Health
by Chris Kilham

Malaria, a parasitic disease mostly transmitted by mosquitoes, causes fever, chills, pain in the joints, anemia, headache, nausea, sweating, and in some cases convulsions and death. It is a wholly unpleasant, killer disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half the world’s population- approximately 3.3 billion people, are at risk of malaria. Annually, over 215 million people contract the disease, of which approximately 1.5 million die. Almost 90 percent of all malaria deaths in 2010 occurred in Africa, where children under five years of age are the most vulnerable.

The tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world are the most hazardous from a malaria standpoint. Travelers who journey to those regions are often advised to take precautions to avoid the risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers updated information on which regions globally pose a malaria risk. If you visit the CDC website, you will find a section called Traveler’s Health that has updated disease information about virtually every country in the world. The CDC provides information on malaria and other diseases, how to prevent many of them and how to recognize various diseases should you become sick.

The parasites that cause malaria, called sporozoites, are clever. Over time, they have developed resistance to various anti-malarial agents, rendering formerly effective drugs useless. Quinine from the cinchona tree used to be the most important anti-malarial drug in the world, but now it is ineffective in many areas where the parasites have become resistant. Mefloquine, the most widely prescribed anti-malarial drug, works for now, but it is a single molecule drug that experts fully expect to become ineffective over time. Many of the negative effects caused by mefloquine are similar to the effects of malaria – including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, muscle pain and more. Mefloquine also can cause hallucinations, and thoughts of hurting yourself.

So how can you prevent malaria without taking a drug that may harm you? The answer is Artemisia annua, a simple and inexpensive herb that contains four known anti-malarial compounds. WHO recommends artemisinin, one of the compounds in artemisia, as a preventive agent, at a dosage of at least 250 milligrams per day. But WHO also recommends combining a synthetic artemisinin called artemether with the drug Lumefantrine. The reason for combining these two agents is to reduce the likelihood of the malaria parasite becoming resistant to the drug. But this combination, known as Coartem, has many negative effects.

By contrast, whole Artemisia herb, with its four naturally-occurring anti-malarial compounds, is very easy on the body, and protects against malaria without giving you harmful thoughts. The best way to take full advantage of the protective properties of Artemisia is to purchase capsules of the whole herb. The companies Nature’s Sunshine, NutriCology and Allergy Research Group all sell Artemisia capsules online. Taking two daily during travel and one week after should provide protection.

Since the decline of quinine, researchers have scrambled to find a natural, safe anti-malarial drug with broad application. Today Artemisia is being cultivated in large quantities in East Africa, notably Tanzania, where it is being made available to people for a fraction of the cost of anti-malarial pharmaceuticals.

If you are traveling to a malaria zone, be sure to bring protection. Malaria is not a disease to play with. At best it is highly uncomfortable; at worst it is fatal. Pack artemisia with you, and protect yourself from this killer disease.

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May 2012