Malaria in Cambodia: Is it a Risk for Travellers?

Cambodia’s dense forests may attract the attention of tourists and travellers around the world for the adventure they offer. However, travellers are also quite wary of the fact that the same forests have the female Anopheles mosquito in abundance. Why are these mosquitoes so dreaded? Well, that’s because these mosquitoes are known for spreading malaria. So, a mosquito bite in a Cambodian forest is not to be taken lightly.

Before you visit Cambodia, it’s essential to know about the possibilities regarding malaria in Cambodia and what you can do to keep the deadly disease at bay.

To Begin With, Let’s Understand Malaria

It’s not as if every female Anopheles mosquito can cause malaria. Only those mosquitoes that are infected themselves have the capacity of spreading the disease to humans and other animals. When an infected mosquito bites a human, it transmits the deadly ‘Plasmodium’ parasite to the human. Inside the human body, the plasmodium multiplies inside the liver, with symptoms worsening. It often takes time to diagnose a person with malaria in Cambodia as most symptoms come to the surface almost two weeks after the mosquito bite.

However, in case you visit Cambodia, spend time in its forests, get bitten by mosquitoes and experience the following symptoms within ten to fifteen days, then you might have to prioritize your health over your travelling:

•    Convulsions
•    Dizziness
•    Fever
•    Headaches
•    Haemoglobin in urine
•    Jaundice
•    Retinal damage
•    Shivering

You may think after reading through the common symptoms that malaria symptoms are just like symptoms of flu. So how do you tell malaria from flu? Well, a classic symptom of malaria in Cambodia is paroxysm. Paroxysm involves rapid changes in body temperature, with the body going from cold shivers to fever within a matter of two or three days. Paroxysm also involves recurring fever. So, if you develop paroxysm, you can be very sure that you have contracted malaria.

You Can Take Precautions Against Malaria

Some of the most common precautions you can take to protect yourself from malaria are:

•  Using Mosquito Nets While Resting: Most people, especially westerners, don’t have to deal with mosquito issues. As a result, most of them are used to resting without any mosquito net. However, if you want to protect yourself from malaria in Cambodia, you need to use one, at least while you are in the country. A mosquito net makes sure that you remain safe from malaria bites when you are resting or sleeping.

Read More: 5 Helpful Items to Avoid Mosquitoes in Cambodia


•  Wear Long-Sleeved Shirts, Full Pants and Shoes: You can’t spend your entire time inside a mosquito net in Cambodia and hope to explore the country at the same time. Protecting yourself from malaria in Cambodia when you are out in the open involves wearing long-sleeved shirts. You also need to keep your lower body as covered as possible by wearing full pants and shoes.

It may feel extremely uncomfortable for you to roam around the tropical country with full-length clothes, especially during the summer months. However, prevention is much better than cure, especially for a condition for which there is no proven and effective cure so far.

•  Start Antimalarial Medication Just Before You Visit Cambodia: The class of pharmaceutical drugs that are meant to keep the human body resistant towards malaria is known as antimalarial. There are several antimalarial medicines in the market. Some of them may cause reactions in people with specific underlying medical conditions. So, consult a trusted medical professional to choose the right antimalarial.

If you are coming to Cambodia from a western country, you should definitely purchase the medicines from home. You may get the medicines in Cambodia as well, but there have been several issues with Cambodian pharmacies in recent years with regards to the selling of fake medicines.

Read More: Tips for Keeping Health in Cambodia


•  Keep Mosquito Repellents With You: From machines that can be plugged into creams you can apply on your skin to sprays; there are many forms of mosquito repellents in the market for you to choose from. Keep a variety of these repellents with you for different situations and use them effectively to keep yourself as protected as possible from malaria.

•  Stay in Air-Conditioned Rooms: When you are staying in Cambodia’s prominent cities, make sure that you get air-conditioned rooms. Even though the risk of malaria has been eliminated from the capital Phnom Penh, the proximity of other prominent cities like Sihanoukville and Siem Reap to forests makes them vulnerable. Air-conditioned rooms may be a bit more financially draining, but they may save you from malaria.

•  Camping near Stagnant Water Is a Strict No-No: Stagnant water is the number one breeding ground for mosquitoes. So if you are camping out in the wilderness, make sure that you set up your tents somewhere where there is no stagnant water.

The Danger of Drug-Resistant Malaria Is on the Rise

The World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted uncomplicated malaria treatment through artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). This therapy involves administering the drug artemisinin along with a partner drug to get rid of the plasmodium parasites from the body.

However, in recent years, studies have shown that the plasmodium parasite has evolved in many parts of the world. Now, there are many places in the world including Cambodia where the parasite has become totally resistant to artemisinin. If the ACT is successful in a case where artemisinin just isn’t having any effect, then the use of a strong partner drug is recommended.

Malaria in Cambodia may not have any effective treatment, especially for severe complications. However, if you take precautions, you can return to your home malaria-free.