Elderly tourists more at risk for malaria than younger tourists

According to an United Kingdom study, elderly tourists who have visited a malaria-infected country are almost 10 times more likely to die from malaria than younger tourists.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine carried out the observational study based on the data of 25,000 patients. The scientists also found that tourists are more than nine times more likely to die from malaria than those of African heritage who are visiting family or friends, the British Medical Journal reports.

While malaria does affect those of African heritage, the risks of dying are relatively low, potentially due to greater awareness of the symptoms or early exposure to malaria.

Malaria risks also increased steadily with age. Overall case fatality was three percent, or 81 deaths, in 2,740 cases. In the over 65 age group, 4.6 percent, or 25 out of 548 cases, resulted in death. The case fatality was 0.32 percent in those of African heritage visiting family or friends. Case fatality was especially high with people visiting Gambia, with 3.9 percent of cases resulting in deaths from the disease compared with 0.4 percent in other west African countries, according to the British Medical Journal.

There are 250 million reported cases of malaria each year with more than 800,000 deaths annually.