Across the globe, nations and millions of individuals come together on April 25th to mark World Malaria Day. The theme this year is ‘Invest in the Future, Defeat Malaria’—and the best way to defeat this mosquito-borne disease is to prevent it from the start.

For more than 4,000 years, malaria has been responsible for the decline of many great civilizations and cities; and it’s still a huge threat to mankind. Most Americans today think it’s a disease only associated with parts of the world that don’t affect them; but that’s far from the truth. From US Presidents to supermodels to Hollywood superstars, the list of even the rich and famous to have been struck down by malaria is a surprisingly long one.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2014 alone around two hundred million people across the world contracted malaria, which resulted in over 500,000 deaths. A recent malaria surveillance report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that malaria cases in the US were at their highest in four decades. Most of those cases and deaths could have been prevented. Here’s our list of simple and yet effective ways to protect you and your loved ones from the disease.

1. Wear Protective Clothing
The easiest thing to do—doctors recommend wearing appropriate clothing, particularly if you’re planning on visiting a known malaria area or country. The one thing that you should always wear is thick socks, for mosquitoes love to bite your ankles. Make sure your wardrobe consists of long-sleeved shirts, pants, jeans and covered shoes. It’s also important to wear light-colored clothes as research shows that mosquitoes are drawn to darker colors.

2. Use A Good Mosquito Repellant
Since the ancient Greeks, mankind has been known to try everything from sugar to garlic as a repellant to fend off the tiny blood suckers. Research has found that many herbs naturally repel mosquitoes. Buy a few citronella, lavender, lemongrass or rosemary candles, light them up, and you instantly mosquito proof your surroundings.

The CDC recommends using repellents based on DEET, icaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus for effective protection. If you plan to use a sunscreen, remember to apply it before the mosquito repellent, if you want it to be effective. Oprah favorite and Emmy Award-winning TV personality Dr Mehmet Oz advises that one should be careful not to apply mosquito repellents to cuts, wounds or irritated skin, or near the eyes or mouth. Never spray it directly on your face and apply it to only exposed skin. It’s also very important to not let children apply it themselves; always do it for them.

3. Keep The Home Dry
Shocking fact—mosquitoes can breed in as little as one inch of water. This means there are numerous places in your home for them to thrive. Make sure your home drainage system and the plumbing is working, properly closed and not leaking. Water pipes in the bathroom or even the areas under your bathtub or kitchen sink can be leaky; so regularly check them. Places like the basement and attic can also get damp and wet due to leakage or rainwater seeping in. If there’s excessive moisture in some parts of your home, consider getting a dehumidifier.

4. Clean Up Your Surroundings
Any unclean environment gives room for mosquitoes to thrive. If there are any old tires, tubes, cans, tins, discarded appliances or other junk lying about the place, dispose them off. Throw away anything that can collect and cause water to be stagnant. Bird baths, children’s play sets, tree houses, your pet’s food bowl, flower pots, and gutters in your backyard should be checked on a regular basis for stagnant water. If you have a swimming pool, clean and chlorinate it every day; when not in use, remember to drain and cover it. If you live in New York City and notice standing water or a potential mosquito breeding ground, you can call 311.

5. Take Anti-Malarial Drugs
If you are going on a vacation or traveling to a place on business, check the risk of malaria at your destination. While there is no vaccine for the disease, there are a number of anti-malarial drugs that can prevent it. The drugs administered to you by your physician will depend on a number of factors, ranging from the country or areas to which you will be traveling, your age and present health conditions. Well-known MD and author Dr Andrew Weil, who has spent many years traveling to malaria-prone areas of the world, recommends that whenever an anti-malarial is advised to you, be sure to continue to take it after you’ve left the malaria-endemic area. If you don’t follow the prescribed dosage, you run the risk of developing malaria later.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page and read about more Diseases & Conditions here.

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Fali R Singara has spent two decades in the radio business as a radio disc jockey, producer and writer. This English literature major and USC School of Cinematic Arts alumnus also has a parallel career as a journalist and filmmaker. His career has included editorships of FHM, The Record, and numerous other publications; while on celluloid he’s produced and directed numerous things, including a well-received documentary on Mother Teresa. His documentaries have been screened across the world, including a screening at the Vatican for the Pope. He is currently on course to make and direct his first feature film, which will be released in the near future.