Malaria in Colombia – The Facts

South American vacations offer much novelty and excitement, but when traveling through that region, it’s prudent to take preventative health measures. Serious diseases are common in numerous South American countries. Often enough travel agents give you plenty of information on destinations, restaurants and possibly how to avoid getting ill, but it is still better to do your own independent research as well.

South America tours often involve getting shots to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and rabies. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get shots for everything. There are no shots to prevent malaria, which is often highly prevalent in countries with large populations, mass migrations, and poor sanitation. Not all South America tours offer enough information on what to do to prevent it and what help to get if you do get it.

Malaria Infested Areas in Colombia

All areas of Colombia below 5,577 ft are likely to have malaria-infested regions, particularly in the less urban sections. Large cities where there are low to no cases of malaria are Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena beach.

What Is Malaria?

Malaria is a serious illness. If not correctly treated, it can cause jaundice and anemia, and these, in turn, can result in a coma or kidney failure. Malaria is spread from mosquito bites, and symptoms occur about a week after a bite. The symptoms of malaria include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, body aches, headaches, sweating, and chills. In most cases, it is almost impossible to recover without treatment, and if not treated in time, or not treated at all, it can even be fatal.

High Risk of Malaria On A Colombia vacation

If your South America vacation includes Colombia tours, you need to ask your doctor about what you can do to avoid getting ill with malaria. When embarking on a Colombia vacation, taking precautions is something you should do before you leave the United States. Be well prepared to protect against malaria and to have the right drugs on hand should you get it. Should you need to visit a doctor there, knowledge about anti-malarial drugs prevents you from getting the wrong medication.

With a population of 45 million people, it has not been easy for health authorities in Colombia to quell the spread of malaria. Colombia’s tropical climate, unsanitary living conditions, pools of stagnant water, makes it difficult to contain this vector-borne illness. About 75% of Malaria cases abound along cities and towns along the Pacific Coast. Cauca, Valle, Choco, Antioquia, and Cordoba have reported the highest incidents of malaria in the country.

According to a survey done in 2008 by the National Institute of Health, 110,000 cases of malaria were reported in Colombia. It is estimated that this number has not decreased in 2011 because no effective measures have yet been found to prevent the spread of malaria in Colombia.


What, then, are the steps you need to take if your trip to South America includes Colombia?

Here are a few commonsense steps:

• Begin taking your prescription anti-malarial pills before traveling and regularly during your trip.
• Use insect repellant.
• Wear long pants, not shorts or skirts, and shirts with sleeves.
• Sleep in air-conditioned rooms, or rooms with screens or bed nets.

Effective And Ineffective Anti-Malarial Drugs

Effective drugs include mefloquine, doxycycline, or Atovaquone-proguanil. It’s important to note that chloroquine is not effective as an antimalarial drug for a Colombia vacation. Although halofantrine is widely prescribed overseas for malaria, do not take this drug because it has serious side effects, including heart attacks. In fact, it is preferable to buy your anti-malarial drugs in the United States to ensure that you get real drugs, not counterfeit medications or contaminated medications.

Malaria is a serious illness, but shouldn’t keep you from enjoying virgin Caribbean beaches, lush Amazon jungles, and delicious Latin cuisine on a Colombia vacation.