Malaria has been the worst disease in human history and a staggering 40% of the world’s population are at risk from the disease. Malaria in Brazil have decreased considerably from the 1950s when it was not unusual for around 6 million cases to be reported each year. By 2009, this figure had dropped to 300,000. Take note that the current Malaria cases in Brazil are mostly confined to the Amazon Rainforest i.e. in areas like Manaus.
The question of what Malaria actually is has interestingly been debated sometimes by malaria experts in order to ensure they are focusing on the most beneficial stage of the disease. Malaria is spread by the pathogenic organism Plasmodium, which includes several different species. The dominant species changes from the eastern to western Amazon Rainforest and this is important for treatment and prevention.
Originating from the term for “bad air”, malaria causing parasites are carried by mosquitoes in the Anopheles genus. It follows that to reduce the probability of catching malaria, you should reduce the number of mosquito bites. This is easier said than done in the tropics, but you can reduce bites by various methods. These include keeping covered up and wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, always sleeping under a mosquito net, using mosquito repellent (preferably environmentally friendly options rather than DEET or pyrethrin), and it also helps if you take Vitamin B1 and eat garlic. Have a talk to your G.P. or travel doctor about the medications available. The prophylaxis provided is preventative medication, but it should not be relied upon. Make sure the medication you take is suited to you and the area you are visiting.
After traveling for 3 months between Amazon Rainforest areas, I never got sick from a tropical disease, but I did stick to an anti-malarial medication routine, except for the odd moments. One time I remember I spilled all of my malaria medication over the rainforest floor as I had forgotten to take it when I woke. We advise malaria prophylaxis in Manaus as this is what the WHO and CDC both recommend (there are links below). My preference for medication was Doxycycline, but the medication you require depends on where you are going, how long you are planning to stay, and which one suits you better. Talk to your travel doctor or G.P. a few weeks before you travel as the medication takes a while to work.
See our article on what to take to the Amazon Rainforest for extra ideas on preventing bites and read up on mosquitoes to know your enemy. You can also check out the pages on malaria in Brazil at the World Institute of Health and you can see their malaria profile on Brazil. Also see the Center for Disease Control pages for diseases in Brazil.