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Wednesday, April 3, 2019 

Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director at UK P&I Club, has commented on the importance malaria prevention, detection and treatment at sea:

“Recently, UK P&I Club Members reported two cases of death and two cases of serious illness due to malaria. These cases arose despite the crew member being on medication to prevent the disease. It was later found that the crew members either did not have the correct medication, for the countries they were travelling to, or they were unsure about the correct dose they should be taking.

“Malaria is a life-threatening disease that is preventable and curable with early diagnosis and treatment. It is not contagious, but it is an infectious disease spread through infected female mosquitos, carrying one of several malaria microorganisms. Most malaria cases take place in sub-Saharan Africa, however, regions such as South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific and the Americas are also at risk.

“If malaria is diagnosed and treated early, it is usually completely curable. However, if left untreated, it may lead to complications and, potentially, death. Some complications that can arise include kidney failure, liver failure, acute respiratory distress and circulatory collapse, as well as secondary infections. The severity of the complications of malaria mean it is imperative for vessels travelling within, or close to, the endemic regions to carry prophylaxis (preventative treatment)."

Malaria usually has ‘flu-like’ signs and symptoms.

Suggested preventive measures include:

  • Carry the correct medication for applicable geographic area on board in adequate quantities
  • Mosquitoes are attracted by light and areas with stagnant water – care should be taken to ensure there is no stagnant water anywhere on a vessel, and that the amount of light is reduced, where safe to do so
  • Ensure that no crew members sleep on deck
  • Apply insecticides in cabins
  • Use mosquito repellent sprays and mosquito nets that have been treated with an effective insecticide
  • Avoid exposing skin when possible.

Bullard concluded: “Despite falling cases of malaria and related malaria deaths worldwide, the disease continues to be a real threat to seafarer welfare. As always, prevention is better than cure, and by adhering to and implementing recommended measures, shipowners can mitigate against the risk of crew contracting the infectious disease.”

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