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 of 169 (18%) 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 short travel 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.