Malaria alert: Caution advised for parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and northern KZN

2018-01-04 15:00 -
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Cape Town - The National Institute for Communicable Diseases released an advisory on increased malaria risk in three provinces earlier December, with travellers advised to take precautionary measures if travelling to affected regions. 

South Africa has seen an alarming rise in malaria cases over the last few months. This spike has been attributed primarily to unseasonably high rainfall and levels of humidity.

Many South Africans regard malaria as a problem outside of SA's boarders, however, now malaria cases have become more prevalent in SA, making it increasingly important to increase awareness and educate ourselves about the disease. 

The NCID announced that there's an extended seasonal risk of malaria, with an increase in number of cases of severe malaria, specifically in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal, including the Kruger National Park. Travellers are also advised to look out for symptoms as early diagnosis can prevent death from the deadly disease.  

SEE: #WorldMalariaDay: What travellers need to know

Safari tour operators advisory

The organisation especially advises safari tour operators taking clients on long safaris to have the necessary medication on hand for when they are far out of reach of medical care. 

This includes taking preventative malaria medication before the trip, and advising their clients to do the same. You can also spray or soak clothes in permethrin, wear long sleeves and pants and carry mosquito nets and repellants.

PICS: Acsa launches anti-malaria initiative at OR Tambo

Operators should also make sure to have malaria rapid diagnostic tests on them and know how to use them properly, as well as carry emergency anti-malarial therapy, namely Co-artem.

If it is determined someone has malaria or shows sypmtoms, it's crucial to take Co-artem immediately as the first 48 hours is crucial in minimising the severity of the disease. The patient needs to take the medication with milk or a fatty meal for better absorption. Follow directions for Co-artem closely.

Once possible, find medical help quickly for further treatment.

Symptoms

These are the following symptoms of malaria:

  • Fever
  • Flu-like illness (fever, chills, sweating, body pains)
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness

These are danger signs and means the patient needs to be taken to hospital immediately:

  • Drowsiness
  • Deep heavy breathing
  • Yellow eyes
  • Vomiting, not able to eat or drink

Here are five things you might not know about Malaria:  

1.    Malaria is an Italian word

The word “malaria” is derived from the Medieval Italian word “mala aria”, meaning “bad air”. Before discovering that mosquitoes were the responsible parasite for the disease, people believed that the cause of the illness was due to bad or foul air itself – usually in and around swamps or marshes. It was only in the late 1880s that Ronald Ross discovered that it was the mosquito that transmitted the disease.

2.    She’s female

Only certain species of mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus—and only females of those species—can transmit malaria. Male mosquitoes are quite timid and stick to feeding on vegetation. Malaria is caused by a one-celled parasite called a Plasmodium. Female Anopheles mosquitoes pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite to obtain blood needed to nurture their eggs making them the primary transmitter of the disease. 

3.    …and she’s silent

The presence of a female Anopheles mosquito, typically known as “The Silent Killer”, often goes unnoticed. She won’t buzz around your head – she’s completely silent. She is armed with sensory abilities that allow her to find and drink human blood – in this case, go undetected. Female mosquitos feed primarily between dusk and dawn.

4.    Alcohol won’t save you…

Rather than alcohol being a mosquito repellent, it in fact has the opposite effect. In 2010, scientists at the University of Emory, Atlanta USA, conducted an experiment that used body odour (emitted from the skin and breath) to measure human attractiveness to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The experiment found that the body odour of those who had consumed beer increased the activity of mosquitoes and was a real health risk factor. One would need to drink gallons of alcohol before any repellent properties were evident.

5.    Malaria is a complex parasitic disease…

… and is not caused by a single biological entity. The disease is the result of a complex interplay between three biological systems each with its own complex lifecycle, environment, habits and pathogenesis profiles. 

For more information please visit www.nicd.ac.za.

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