Dec. 6, 2004 If you're headed to the Dominican Republic, the Centers for Disease Control and the local Health Department advise you to start on a course of chloroquine pills before you go.
The importance of taking this anti-malaria drug is important for the Virgin Islands because numerous residents with roots in the Dominican Republic visit the island during the holidays.
The Dominican Republic has recently experienced an outbreak in La Altagracia Province, which includes the tourism resorts at Punta Cana, and in Duarte Province. The Associated Press reported from the Dominican Republic that officials blame the outbreak on heavy rainfall during September's Hurricane Jeanne.
According to the Associated Press, Dominican authorities were fumigating to kill mosquitoes and will temporarily place doctors in hotels to test tourists who come down with a fever.
Since January, 2,021 people were diagnosed with malaria. In 2003, the number stood at 1,529.
The Associated Press reported that a total of 17 visitors came down with the disease. Llelwyn Grant, CDC spokesman, put the figure at 14. He said the number included four Canadians, seven Europeans and two Americans.
The Associated Press reported that the malaria cases in four Canadians were caused by Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most dangerous form of the disease. The others were hit with other strains of the disease. None of those affected took preventive drugs.
Travelers need to take medication prior to traveling, during their stay and for a period after returning. In addition, simple measures to avoid mosquito bites are also highly effective and add to the benefits of drug protection. These measures are also important because there are other diseases spread by insects for which there is no preventive medication.
According to the CDC Web site, symptoms are similar to the flu. They can include fever, shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Ironically, those same symptoms are experienced by many who take the antimalaria drug, but less dramatically.
Malaria symptoms occur at from six to nine days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Therefore, fever in the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria.
If you or your child becomes ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home, seek medical care. Delaying treatment can lead to serious complications such as coma, kidney failure, and death. Tell your health care provider where you have been traveling and that you have been exposed to malaria.
To prevent the disease take 500 milligrams of chloroquine phosphate, a prescription medicine, once a week. Take the first dose of chloroquine one week before arrival in the malaria-risk area. Take your dose once a week, on the same day of the week, while in the risk area. Take your dose once a week for four weeks after leaving the risk area.
Chloroquine should be taken on a full stomach to lessen the risk of nausea and stomach upset.
Most travelers taking chloroquine do not have side effects serious enough to stop taking the drug. If chloroquine causes unpleasant symptoms, other antimalarial drugs are available.
Health Commissioner Darlene Carty could not be reached for comment.
If you are a health care provider, who needs assistance with diagnosis and managing suspected cases of malaria, call the CDC malaria hotline at 770-488-7788.
For more information on malaria, visit the CDC Web site at "www.cdc.gov/malaria".
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.