The increasingly frequent cases of malaria scared the Romanians. What tourism experts say

Scared of the problems they may face when they return home, more and more Romanians are starting to give up exotic vacations in Africa. From November, weekly, at the Hospital for Infectious and Tropical Diseases “Dr. Victor Babeș“severe malaria patients arrive. And some of them started to lose the fight with the disease. Therefore, tourism experts warn that before a trip to such an area, measures must be taken to prevent infection with imported diseases.

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Since November, patients with severe malaria arrive weekly at the “Dr.Victor Babeș” Hospital for Infectious and Tropical Diseases. Some lose the battle with the disease. Recently, a 54-year-old woman who traveled to Zanzibar and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with severe malaria died. And the most famous case is that of the ex-wife of the president of the Cluj County Council, Camelia Tișe, who died of malaria, two weeks after returning from vacation.

The media coverage of these cases led many to abandon their planned trips to Zanzibar, so there were a lot of ads posted on Facebook travel groups by Romanians trying to sell their vacation packages to this exotic place.

Is anyone interested in Bucharest-Dubai-Zanzibar plane tickets for 2 adults and a child departing on 02/09/2024 and returning on 02/18/2024? And accommodation at Tui blue bahari Zanzibar with all inclusive! Something happened and we can't leave!”, is the announcement of a tourist from the Forum Zanzibar group.

On another Facebook group, this time Do It Yourself Vacations, someone wrote: “We were planning to go to Zanzibar between 17-24.02, but unfortunately something happened and we can't make it. The accommodation is fully paid and we cannot recover the amount so late so we try our luck here, maybe there are walkers who have not yet booked the accommodation during that period. We also offer a discount for those interested”.

“Unfortunately, malaria scares away tourists to Zanzibar. I was there about 5 times, I didn't do the treatment with pills, but I had clothes to cover the skin in the evening and I sprayed Autan tropical spray in abundance. In the current conditions, however, I would not go without the treatment“, another tourist writes on Facebook.

Paradise for little money

The number of Romanians visiting Zanzibar increased by 30% in 2023 compared to the previous year. Tourism specialists say that it is essential where tourists stay in these areas, where they eat and where they walk.

Zanzibar has two parts: the “authentic, local” area, where it would be better to avoid booking accommodation, and the more touristic area, open more to Europeans: the northern part and the east coast“, explains Ana Maria Călin, the manager of a travel agency.

Travel specialists insist that poorly rated guesthouses and hotels be avoided, and that locations in tourist areas be chosen, for greater safety.

But some tourists prefer to go to unsafe areas because they are cheaper, and hence the greater risk of contracting diseases“, they show.

The tourist chooses his destination according to his budget, preferences and according to his willingness to get vaccinated or not. For exotic destinations, our agency works with local partners who send us up-to-date general travel information, then we pass the information on to tourists, but further it is up to the tourist to choose“, explains George Clota, tourism consultant.

He advises those planning a holiday in these areas to choose a repellent spray from the destination, as ours might not work. There are also sprays against mosquitoes that have the role of sun protection.

Mosquitoes are not so common in the beach area, but there are also accommodations in mangrove areas, where fresh water and salt water meet, and mosquitoes prefer these areas. These are to be avoided, even if they are cheaper. Local hotels, lodges, a kind of guesthouses, do not have the budget to carry out periodic disinsection, instead in large resorts this is done constantly. And when they go on the optional trips, tourists should also take the protective spray with them, produced locally“, adds the specialist.

How many cases of malaria are there in Zanzibar?

Although there is no travel warning for the risk of malaria in Zanzibar, and the World Health Organization (WHO) showed in 2022 that the malaria prevalence rate was below 1%, representing “cthe lowest rate in Tanzania and East and Central Africa”, there has been an increase in the incidence of malaria in recent times.

According to a Tanzanian news platform, “malaria is back in Zanzibar as the islands grapple with the effects of climate change, which has led to the resurgence of breeding grounds and a change in the behavior of anopheles mosquitoes“. Furthermore, in late January, an official from the Zanzibar Ministry of Health stated that between January 1-15, 2024, more than 3,500 cases of malaria were reported in Unguja and Pemba.

The situation is alarming considering that the country has so far not exceeded the infestation rate of 0.5% after the implementation of the Zanzibar Malaria Strategic Plan (MSP) with the support of the WHO.

There are no mandatory vaccines whose confirmation by certificate is requested upon entry into Tanzania if the travel took place directly from Romania or with a stopover in airports in Europe. However, we strongly recommend vaccination against yellow fever (and the possession of the Yellow Book of Vaccinations against yellow fever), as well as against typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria and poliomyelitis. (…) Malaria is quite widespread in the United Republic of Tanzania. We recommend that you purchase a malaria medical kit in advance of your trip and use mosquito repellants such as sprays, nets or electric devices”informs the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prevention, symptoms, treatment

Malaria is an infectious disease that is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito in endemic areas, or through contaminated sanitary instruments. The disease is not transmitted from one person to another.

Prophylaxis is done with antimalarial drugs and protection against mosquito bites. The vaccine is not available in Europe, only in Africa.

The Ministry of Health recommends that Romanian tourists, who head to tropical areas, have a discussion with doctors before leaving on the road about malaria prophylaxis.

In order not to become infected with malaria, tourists should start pre-trip drug prophylaxis. Treatment is taken at least one week before departure and ends one week after returning from the endemic area.

Malaria symptoms appear 7-30 days after infection. These can often be confused with the symptoms of a respiratory infection: fever and chills, general feeling of malaise, headache, cough, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate.