Malaria Prevention in the CAF
It is essential for CAF personnel to prepare for their deployments around the world, which includes pre-emptive preparations to prevent tropical diseases such as malaria.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It wreaks havoc in areas of the world where it occurs and continues to affect military personnel and military operations. While there is no vaccine to combat malaria, there are several anti-malarial medications (sometimes called “malaria pills” or chemoprophylaxis) that can be used to prevent it. For most areas of the world where malaria occurs, the CAF recommends its members use one of three medications: doxycycline, atovaquone-proguanil (also called Malarone) or mefloquine. The use of one of these medications, along with measures to prevent mosquito bites, like bed nets and topical repellents, provides a very high level of protection against malaria.
All three types of malaria pills have been approved for use by Health Canada, and are recommended as equally effective options by the Canadian Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT). CATMAT includes experts on tropical medicine and travel, and develops its guidelines based on scientific evidence and best medical practices. These three types of malaria pill are also recommended by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Before travelling, members will meet with their health care provider to discuss options for malaria pills. The choice will be based on an individual’s preferences, as well as the travel itinerary, underlying health status, other medications being taken, the risk of adverse drug reactions, and past history of malaria pills usage.
As with any drug, use of malaria pills can cause unwanted side effects. These are usually mild but can, in rare instances, be serious. Members should contact their health care provider as soon as possible if, after using malaria pills, they experience any side effects. Depending on the nature of the effect, there are several options available, including continuing to use the medication or switching to another type of malaria pill.
Mefloquine, doxycycline and atovaquone-proguanil continue to be recommended for prevention of malaria by CATMAT and other public health authorities, and the CAF will continue to follow the advice of these expert groups. If there is any new information on any of the malaria pills, the CAF, along with public health authorities, will review and adjust recommendations accordingly.
It is ultimately up to individual CAF members, in consultation with their health care provider, to make a personal and informed decision on which malaria pill they wish to be prescribed.
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