Cape Town - Heavy rains received this year have increased the risk of Malaria in South Africa's Kruger National Park.
Usually classified as a low-risk areas, despite being one of the Malaria endemic areas in this country, the Park is now advising visitors to take the necessary precautionary measures against the disease.
"There are pools of water in abundance everywhere and the Park is experiencing Malaria cases especially in the northern part of the Park," SANParks says.
SEE: Malaria: What travellers need to know
In March the province of Limpopo also issued an advisory to for travellers to take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the disease, which can be fatal is not treated correctly.
“Malaria seems to be on the brink of an outbreak lately despite the fact that we almost in winter now with some of the country’s provinces reporting hundreds of people who have been admitted and tested positive for the disease in hospitals,"says SANParks Acting Head of Communications, William Mabasa.
Precautionary measures include the use of prophylaxes and vaccinations in consultation with their doctors to prevent the possibility of contracting Malaria.
"By using repellants on the skin, keeping the gauze door and windows close and also ensuring these are not broken as well as spraying the inside of the hut/bungalow with insecticide, the risk of Malaria in the Park can be reduced significantly."
Malaria season is usually October to April
Mabasa also noted that “although Malaria can be contracted at any time of year, March and April are the highest risk period; however this year seems to be slightly different. With winter approaching, mosquitoes which are carriers of the parasite causing Malaria, should begin to hibernate and the situation shall possibly improve."
NOTE: There are medical doctors permanently based in Skukuza, Kruger National Park’s main camp and the public can also consult them for information and advice prior to their visit to the Park on telephone number +27 13 735 5638
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 seven to 35 days to start. It can be as long as six months or as short as five days in people who acquire it through blood transfusion or needle prick.
Tiredness and fatigue
Abrupt chills and fever (39° to 41° centigrade), which may cause profuse sweating
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 all with your doctor or at a travel clinic before heading away on your trip.
SEE: ALERT: Limpopo on high alert as Botswana issues Malaria warning
How do I prevent malaria?
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."
"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."
The other main way of preventing malaria is to try and avoid getting bitten by these buzzing and annoying creatures:
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.
SEE:7 things worth knowing about mosquitoes
NOTE: Anyone who says, “I’m too small to make a difference”, doesn’t know how annoying and often deadly a mosquito can be.
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