- Malaria is normally only transmitted in three provinces in South Africa: Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal with transmission occurring predominantly between September and May.
- The risk in neighbouring countries, especially Mozambique, is all year round!
Despite being a preventable and readily treatable disease, Malaria continues to present thousands of cases in South Africa each year. There’s no need to worry if you know all the facts...
- You get malaria from the bite of an infected anopheles mosquito.
- You can’t “catch” malaria from someone else.
- The risk of severe malaria is very high for little children, pregnant women and anyone who is immunocompromised.
- Three recommended medicines are effective if taken correctly: atovaquone-proguanil (MALANIL®), mefloquine (LARIAM® or MEFLIAM®) and doxycycline (e.g. DOXIMAL®). All are available on prescription only and side affects should be discussed with your doctor.
- Symptoms of infection commonly develop 10 to 14 days after an infective bite, but may develop much later.
- ‘Flu-like’ symptoms (headache, fever, myalgia) are the most common symptoms of early malaria, but in some cases fever may be absent. Other symptoms include rigors, sweating, tiredness, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
- If you have any of the above symptoms after being in a malaria area, seek immediate medical attention as malaria can be fatal.
Lee Baker, a member of the Malaria Advisory Group subcommittee (SCAT) and the Southern African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM), advises “Avoid taking young children to high risk malaria areas because they can rapidly become severely ill! Mefloquine is the only recommended malaria medication for small children and is very effective if taken correctly. Some medication is contraindicated in children below eight years of age and another can only be used by children weighing 11 kilograms or more. Natural, homeopathic preparations should NOT be used!” she warns.
Prevention is better than Cure!
Avoiding mosquito bites is as important as using preventive drugs.
- Remain indoors between dusk and dawn.
- Wear long sleeved clothing (preferably light coloured), long trousers and socks.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
- Stay in well-constructed and well-maintained buildings in the best-developed part of town.
- Cover doorways and windows with screens, but if not available, windows and doors should be closed at night.
- Ceiling fans and air conditioners are very effective.
- Use a mosquito-proof bed net over the bed, with edges tucked in under the mattress.
- Spray inside the house with an aerosol insecticide (for flying insects) at dusk, especially the bedrooms, after closing the windows.
- Use mosquito mats, or burn mosquito coils in living and sleeping areas during the night.