Malaria. I don’t know what this word means to you, but I surely know what it means to me: something that is better to avoid.
At the beginning, like everyone, I didn’t really know a thing about it. Now I know and even if I can rationalize it, I still think that not taking it is really a good idea.
Tanzanians see things from a different angle. It is part of their lives, being endemic in the most part of the country, and they cope.
But what is malaria? How can it be contracted? How many kinds are there? Everything originates from a very nasty insect, the female Anopheles mosquito. The infected ones can pass the desease from a sick person to a healthy one just with a bite. It’s a blood infection, very annoying. After a period of 8/10 days (if you are as strong as a lion, you can resist up to three weeks), the symptoms start. Severe headache, vomit, diarrea, cough, general weakness. It depends on the kind of plasmodium and on other issues. The vivax kind is lighter: after three days with the right antibiotic, you can go back to your normal life, even if your boby will be weak for another week. The falciparum kind is much more serious. It can be managed with antibiotics, but it’s really heavy and it will take a longer time in order to recover. These are the two most common types.
The coast, especially the city of Tanga, is the most exposed to malaria: it’s hot and humid. In Arusha it’s virtually absent: just some rare cases.
This disease, being really tough, is very dangerous for small children and pregnant women, but everyone must take his own precautions in order to avoid contracting it. How can this be managed? If you are visiting Tanzania just for a brief period, it’s useful to take a prophylaxis. If you plan to stay longer, you can help yourself with a chandarua, a mosquito net, while sleeping, putting a repellent and trying not to stay outside between 6.30 and 7.30 during mornings and evenings.
In the unlikely case that you feel strange, weak or you feel your body has something you never experienced before, go immediately to the hospital: the sooner you arrive, the quicker they will be able to put you back on your legs. Waiting has the only consequence of putting your life in danger.
I have to spend a word on Tanzanian doctors and their ability of treating malaria: they are great. They know everything about it, they have the right remedies and they are very professional. I feel really relaxed in their hands.