South Africa issues malaria alert

Wednesday March 28 2018

An anopheles mosquito.

An anopheles mosquito. The female anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for malaria transmission. PHOTO | FILE 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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South Africa has issued a malaria alert for travellers.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said it expects increased malaria cases due cross-border travel.

“The number of malaria cases is expected to rise as a result of travel during the Easter holidays, and the recent widespread rainfall across southern Africa,” the Johannesburg-based institute said on Wednesday.

NICD Deputy Director Prof Lucille Blumberg cited border provinces of Limpopo in the North, Mpumalanga in the East including Kruger National Park, and southeastern KwaZulu-Natal as high risk areas.

The three provinces are popular holiday destinations.

“A particular risk exists in Mozambique,” said Prof Blumberg who also heads the Epidemiology Division.

Both Limpopo and Mpumalanga border Mozambique.

NICD said the current recommended medications include doxycycline or atovaquone-proguanil, which are available without prescription.

“It should be noted that while these medications are very good at preventing malaria, they are not 100 per cent effective, the agency said.

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MALARIA FACTS

● Cause

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.

P. falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite on the African continent. It is responsible for most malaria-related deaths globally.

Transmission

Transmission depends on climatic conditions that may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity.

In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season.

Malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions suddenly favour transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria.

They can also occur when people with low immunity move into areas with intense malaria transmission.

Symptoms

In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite.

The first symptoms – fever, headache, and chills– may be mild and difficult to recognise as malaria.

If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria.

In adults, multi-organ involvement is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.

Who is at risk?

Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers.

● Prevention

- Use insecticide-treated mosquito nets

- Indoor residual spraying with insecticides

- Antimalarial medicines

- Vaccines against malaria

(Source: World Health Organisation)