Letters Travel websites

Travel websites should highlight malaria risks

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d271 (Published 18 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d271
  1. John Widdrington, specialist registrar in infectious diseases1,
  2. John Williams, consultant in infectious diseases1,
  3. David R Chadwick, consultant in infectious diseases1,
  4. Brendan McCarron, consultant in infectious diseases1
  1. 1James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough TS4 3BW, UK
  1. john.widdrington{at}nhs.net

We are concerned about three recent cases of imported malaria in travellers returning from the Gambia. All three were UK nationals who had booked holidays to the Gambia using the same travel website (two had made late bookings). They had failed to take adequate medical advice before travelling so did not take adequate malaria chemoprophylaxis. Within a fortnight of returning to the UK they all presented to hospital with severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

Imported cases of malaria are relatively common in the UK, mostly from West Africa (813 of 1495 cases in 2009), with a considerable proportion occurring in holidaymakers (57 in 2009).1 The Gambia is a popular “winter sun” destination for UK travellers. Malaria is highly endemic there and is a risk to travellers throughout the year. This risk can be reduced through appropriate chemoprophylaxis and bite avoidance interventions.2

The increasing use of websites to make late holiday bookings can make it more difficult to organise medical advice and malaria chemoprophylaxis.3 In addition, many travel websites and holiday brochures, including the website used by our patients, make no specific reference to the risk of contracting malaria.4

Travel websites need to include explicit messages about taking medical advice and effective chemoprophylaxis before travelling to malaria endemic areas. Advice on allowing sufficient time to organise this might reduce the particular risk to people making late bookings.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d271


  • Competing interests: None declared.