Knowledge of malaria, risk perception, and compliance with prophylaxis and personal and environmental preventive measures in travelers exiting Zimbabwe from Harare and Victoria Falls International airport.J Travel Med. 2001 Nov-Dec; 8(6):298-303.JT
Travel associated malaria is a major health risk for visitors to malaria endemic destinations. To examine the knowledge of malaria prevention, risk perception, current prophylactic behavior, and compliance with chemoprophylaxis and personal and environmental protection measures we conducted a study in a cohort of travelers exiting Zimbabwe from two international airports during a peak malaria transmission period.
Data were collected by pretested self-administered questionnaires from 595 adults in the departure lounges of Harare and Victoria Falls International airports. Excluded were children and travelers from the African continent. A multilingual research assistant supervised data collection.
The majority of travelers obtained health advice prior to travel. Patterns of protective behavior and compliance with prophylaxis were inconsistent with a high perception of malaria threat and good knowledge. About 23% of travelers failed to use chemoprophylaxis during their visit. In the group of travelers who used chemoprophylaxis, 18% were noncompliant. Fifteen drug combinations were in use. Full compliance with medication plus use of personal preventive measures always was estimated as 13%. Forgetfulness was the main cause of noncompliance, followed by deliberate omission due to side effects. Of 57 travelers who reported side effects from current medication, over half used mefloquine.
There is a need to examine how people process personal risk and communications about risk. We must recognize the competition between precautionary measures against malaria and other life demands that are imposed by travel, especially in young long stay travelers and persons visiting primarily for business purposes. Mediating a protective response will also depend on judgments about the effectiveness of the action, strengthening travelers intentions toward adherence, and increasing efficacy perception by individuals and their peers. Conflicts in prophylactic recommendations need to be resolved. As ecotourism develops in Zimbabwe and other malaria regions, stakeholders in this rapidly growing industry must be made aware of the important role they can play in protecting clients from malaria.