UK travellers are being urged to arrange their antimalarial medication before they leave the country following alarming increases in either fake or poor quality malaria medicines in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Already a major concern in Southeast Asia, where up to 53% of some antimalarial medicines contain no active ingredient, poor quality treatments are also becoming a problem for Africa's nations. In Kenya, for example, 38% of antimalarial drugs were found to be substandard and 16% were fake.

There has been a nearly 200% increase in travel to malarious destinations over the past 10 years, and with more and more UK travellers visiting exotic parts of the world they need to be aware of where risks exist, and how to protect themselves from malaria. Travellers can obtain advice about malaria from malaria hotspots and details of regions where there is a malaria risk can be found at the malaria map.

Dr George Kassianos of the Malaria Guidelines Committee said: 'Antimalarial medication is essential when visiting at-risk destinations and travellers would be ill-advised to buy medication when they are abroad - they could be putting their lives at risk.

"With the most deadly strain of malaria on the increase - accounting for nearly 75% of all reported cases in UK travellers - it has never been more important to purchase legitimate medication," he said.

The appeal of buying antimalarials abroad can stem from the belief that it can be bought at a lower cost. The advent of cheap, last minute travel means that travellers are on the look out for the best deal on all aspects of their holiday, including buying cheap antimalarial medication while on holiday. Not only can this be dangerous if the drugs are fake, but the medication is not being taken in good time before entering a malarious area, making them less effective at preventing malaria.

Every year between 1500 and 2000 people return to the UK with malaria and on average nine people will die from this preventable disease. It's essential that travellers seek advice six weeks before their departure date and follow the guidance they are given.

The first line of defence in preventing malaria is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. However, this alone is not enough and if antimalarial medication is recommended it must be taken before, during and after travel.

For more information on malaria, please visit the malaria hotspots website. To find out if your next holiday destination is a malaria hotspot, text the destination to 07800 000 571.

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