Background Malaria is still prevalent in Southeast Asia where large numbers of backpackers visit each year. This study aimed to assess the knowledge, attitude, and practices among foreign backpackers toward malaria risk in Southeast Asia.
Methods Questionnaires were administered to foreign backpackers in Bangkok, Thailand. They were asked about their general background, their attitude to malaria risk, and their preventive measures against malaria. Their knowledge about malaria was assessed by 10 true–false questions in the questionnaires.
Results In total, 434 questionnaires were evaluated. Fifty-five percent of travelers were male and the median age was 28 years. The main reason for travel was tourism (91%). Almost all travelers (94%) were aware of the risk of malaria. Twenty-two percent of them would take antimalarial prophylaxis and 33% would use measures against mosquito bite, but nearly 40% had “no prevention” at all. Mean knowledge score was only 5.52 of 10. Most backpackers (92%) knew that malaria is a serious disease and sometime fatal and 74% knew that some travelers could develop malaria after they return. However, up to 35% believed that eating contaminated food could lead to malaria infection. And 49% believed that malaria could be 100% prevented by chemoprophylaxis. In backpackers, who had traveled in the forest (n = 65), only 54% used insect repellent regularly. Among those who had taken antimalarial prophylaxis, nearly 30% had stopped the medication prematurely.
Conclusions Although most backpackers perceive the risk of malaria in Southeast Asia, they have some misunderstandings about malaria and tend to comply poorly with mosquito bite prevention and chemoprophylactic strategies.