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Visitors and Displaced Persons at High Risk of Malaria in Haiti

Documented post-earthquake cases underscore need for strict chemoprophylaxis adherence

MONDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- In the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, malaria has become a serious risk for displaced individuals living outdoors or in temporary shelters, as well as for emergency responders and travelers to the island nation, according to a report published in the March 5 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers from the CDC in Atlanta described 11 recent laboratory-confirmed cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria acquired in Haiti, which included seven U.S. emergency responders (six of them military personnel), three Haitian residents, and one U.S. traveler. Two of the military personnel developed moderate to serious illness and were transported to the United States for intensive care.

Although the researchers found that chemoprophylaxis was indicated for the seven emergency responders and the U.S. traveler, six of these eight patients (including the two hospitalized military personnel) were non-adherent to the recommended malaria medication regimen.

"Persons traveling to Haiti should receive chemoprophylaxis with one of the following medications: atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, or mefloquine," the authors write. "If preventive medications are started less than one week before departure, or while already in Haiti, either atovaquone-proguanil or doxycycline are recommended. Use of weekly chloroquine requires receiving the initial dose one week before departure, and use of weekly mefloquine requires receiving the initial dose two weeks before departure. Mosquito avoidance measures should be taken, such as using mosquito repellent, wearing protective clothing, and sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net."

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