Re: Should I take Malaria medication for a PNG liveaboard?

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Posted by Rick Coleman on September 14, 2008 at 10:44:03:

In Reply to: Should I take Malaria medication for a PNG liveaboard? posted by malibudiver on September 13, 2008 at 23:08:43:

Let me start by saying that malaria is a serious life threatening disease, so you will need to make your own decision.

My wife and I just returned from a PNG liveaboard and were faced with this same question, so I’ll pass on to you the decision we made and why. After our initial research we decided to take Malarone, then in the end we opted to not take any medicine, just precautions.

Here’s some of the reasons we decided not to take meds. During our research we learned that liveaboards are relatively mosquito safe as mosquitoes won’t travel much distance over salt water. We talked to a couple of PNG liveaboard captains that confirmed the low mosquito risk while on the boat and that many guests opt not to take meds. My wife often has bad reactions to medications and some malaria meds are notorious for bad side affects. Even though Malarone has a better reputation for not having as many adverse side affects, we ran across a couple people that did have a bad reaction to it. We wanted to avoid dealing with potential side affects if we could. It’s also important to point out that malaria medication doesn’t provide 100% protection against malaria. To this day, we keep running into more and more people that got malaria, despite being on medication. So in any case, a number one priority should be avoiding bites.

Regarding our precautions: We brought Deet and also read about treating clothing with Permethrin. Then we discovered the “buzz-off” product line by Ex Officio. (Check out insectshield.com) You can treat clothing on your own with Permethrin, but it wears off. Ex Officio’s claim is that they have a proprietary process for treating clothing with Permethrin that lasts 70 washings. You can even send them your own clothing for treatment.

Even if you are planning to spend your entire trip on the boat there may still times you find yourself at risk. We donned our buzz-off clothing on the plane flights into and out of PNG in case any flights were delayed and arrived at night – the most risky time for mosquitoes. Sure enough, our flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby was delayed about 8 hours and we landed at 10:00PM. We found ourselves waiting outside for the shuttle bus at prime mosquito time. In addition to our buzz-off clothing, we had our 3oz. bottle of Deet in our carry-on, which we applied to exposed skin. Then when we arrived at our Hotel, The Airways, we found a couple mosquitoes buzzing around the bathroom. Our return PNG domestic flight arrived back in Port Moresby at night. On the domestic flights you deplane on the tarmac and walk a distance outside to get to the terminal. We were prepared for this also and took our precautions.

There were a couple of nights on the boat when we anchored somewhat close to land. On those nights we wore our protective clothing when up on deck and put some Deet on exposed skin. As far as we both know, we never received any bite during our stay. Whether you opt to take meds or not it’s wise to be fanatical about taking precautions. The only way to guarantee not getting malaria is not getting any bites.

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