ALERT: Kruger advises visitors to take malaria preventive measures

2017-10-11 09:55 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Picture: Istock

Cape Town - Kruger National Park (KNP) advises its visitors to take precautionary measures to prevent the possibility of developing malaria whilst visiting the Park.

Due to recently reported cases in the province, especially in the Ehlanzeni District Municipality which the southern part of KNP falls under, management is advising visitors to be cautious and take the necessary measures.

“Precautions which include the use of prophylaxes, vaccinations in consultation with doctors and to avoid exposing the skin whilst outside in the evenings can assist a great deal in this regard," says KNP General Manager of  Communications and Marketing, William Mabasa.

SEE: Malaria: What travellers need to know

Mbasa says KNP is known to be one of the Malaria endemic areas in the country and therefore chances of catching malaria always exists in this area, although not often.

To reduce the risk of malaria whilst staying in the Park, KNP also recommends that visitors "use repellents on their skin, wear long sleeve clothes if they happen to go outside of their units, keep the window gauzes and doors closed at all times and check that these are not broken, as well as to ensure that air conditioners in the chalets are fully functional".

Malaria season

"Although malaria can be contracted at any time of the year, malaria season in SA is October to April, with March and April being the highest risk period," says Mbasa.

"We request visitors who contract malaria after having visited the Park to assist us, by immediately reporting to our local doctors in Skukuza as this can assist in recording and identifying all the affected areas in need of attention."

NOTE: There are resident medical doctors permanently based in Skukuza, Kruger National Park’s main camp, and the public can consult them for information and advice prior to their visit to the Park on telephone number +27 13 735 5638. More information on malaria can also be found on the website.

What you need to know about Malaria

Malaria is a tropical disease caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium. The infection occurs when an infected female mosquito bites you, or when you have a blood transfusion from an infected donor, or use infected needles by a drug user. - see Health24

What are the symptoms?

According to Fedhealth depending on the species of mosquito, symptoms can take from 7 to 35 days to start. It can be as long as 6 months or as short as 5 days in people who acquire it through blood transfusion or needle prick.

Symptoms: 

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Abrupt chills and fever (39°c to 41°c), which may cause profuse sweating
  • Quickened pulse
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pains 

Malaria is often also incorrectly diagnosed as the flu, so you need to keep a lookout for flu-like symptoms on your return.

If you don’t treat it, malaria can quickly become life-threatening, by disrupting the blood supply to your vital organs – so it’s vital that if you experience any of these symptoms you head straight to your doctor for a diagnosis, says Fedhealth.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

According to Fedhealth to diagnose malaria, your doctor does a blood test and you may be hospitalised for observation. Malaria can be cured with prescription drugs but the type of drugs and length of treatment depends on the kind of malaria, where you were infected, your age, and how severely ill you are.

Another concern is that in some parts of the world, these pesky - sometimes deadly - parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medications. But don’t worry too much because in general, early treatment of uncomplicated malaria produces excellent results.

Where are the high-risk malaria areas?

According to the medical scheme, in terms of Southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana all have regions which hold varying degrees of malaria risk as does  South Africa. But check this with your doctor or at a travel clinic before heading on your trip.

SEE: ALERT: Limpopo on high alert as Botswana issues Malaria warning

How do I prevent malaria?

Medication

Fedhealth says the first thing is to check whether the area you are travelling to is a malaria area.  And if it is you need to take preventative medication.

"No drug therapy is 100% effective, but some can go a long way to preventing malaria." Visit Health24 for full details.

It is important to note that the medical scheme says currently, the drug Malarone - a combination of atovaquone and proguanil  - is the "drug of choice when travelling to areas where chloroquine-resistant malaria exists."

ALSO SEE:7 things worth knowing about mosquitoes

"However, it’s best to consult your doctor before making any decisions on which medication to take. They will also tell you when to start taking the medication, as many courses should start about a week before you head off on holiday, and continue for a period after your return."

Avoiding mosquitoes

The other main way of preventing malaria is to try and avoid getting bitten by these buzzing and annoying creatures. Here's what you can do:

  • Wear clothing with long sleeves and cover your ankles – especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use long-lasting insecticide sprays inside your hotel room.
  • Ensure that wire or gauze screens on all doors and windows are closed.
  • Keep a fan on in the room during the night – the current seems to put off the mosquitoes.
  • Apply mosquito repellents directly to the skin.
  • Use mosquito netting over the beds.
  • Try and spend evenings indoors rather than outdoors, as you’re much less likely to get bitten by mosquitoes.

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