Currently, there is no vaccine available for malaria, though research is underway. People visiting or moving to areas where malaria is common (endemic) should seek medical advice well in advance of travel in order to minimize risk of exposure. This includes immigrants who return to their country of origin to visit friends and relatives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have information on advised measures to take to prevent exposure and infection (see Related Pages).
All travelers should use personal protection methods to avoid mosquito bites, particularly from dusk to dawn. One of the most important means of protection is the use of mosquito nets for sleeping, particularly if accommodations do not have air conditioning or screens. Light-colored, loose fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants should be worn, and mosquito repellent with adequate DEET should be used. Permethrin-impregnated clothing and nets can be used by those at high risk.
Sometimes, anti-malarial medication is taken to prevent infection (prophylaxis); not everyone traveling to endemic areas will require it. Use of the medication carries risk of side-effects so drugs, such as chloroquine, can be used after consideration of risk. Factors that must be considered include specific areas of travel, season of travel, type and length of travel, and each person's medical history. The type of medication recommended will depend on patterns of drug resistance and the individual's history. Plasmodium falciparum is becoming increasingly resistant to the most commonly prescribed anti-malarial medications such as chloroquine, so those traveling to areas where this type of malaria is common may be prescribed other anti-malarials, including mefloquine, atovaquone/Proguanil, and doxycycline.
It is very important that the malarial prophylaxis be used as directed, including continuing the entire course for the prescribed amount of time, even after returning home from a trip, when exposure to malaria is no longer a risk.