Background: Short trips to holiday resorts in Mombassa, Kenya, have gained popularity among Israelis since the early 1990s. A cluster of cases of malaria among returned travelers raised concern that preventive measures were being neglected.
Objectives: To characterize the demographic and clinical features of malaria acquired in Kenya, and to assess the adequacy of preventive measures.
Methods: Data were collected from investigation forms at the Ministry of Health. All persons who acquired malaria in Kenya during the years 1999-2001 were contacted by phone and questioned about use of chemoprophylaxis, attitudes towards malaria prevention, and disease course. Further information was extracted from hospital records.
Results: Kenya accounted for 30 (18%) of 169 cases of malaria imported to Israel and was the leading source of malaria in the study period. Of 30 malaria cases imported from Kenya, 29 occurred after short (1-2 weeks) travel to holiday resorts in Mombassa. Average patient age was 43 +/- 12 years, which is older than average for travelers to tropical countries. Only 10% of the patients were fully compliant with malaria chemoprophylaxis. The most common reason for non-compliance was the belief that a short trip to a holiday resort carries a negligible risk of malaria. Only 3 of 13 patients (23%) who consulted their primary physician about post-travel fever were correctly diagnosed with malaria. Twenty percent of cases were severe enough to warrant admission to an intensive care unit; one case was fatal.
Conclusions: Measures aimed at preventing malaria and its severe sequelae among travelers should concentrate on increasing awareness of risks and compliance with malaria chemoprophylaxis.