We’ve had some welcome rain over the past few weeks which has also brought the return of those unwelcome guests that disturb our sleep with their high pitched buzzing and itchy bites. This also brings an increased risk of malaria in the high-risk areas – including the Lowveld areas of Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park.
The peak season for malaria is from November to the end of April because mosquitoes carry the parasites which cause the disease and transmit them to humans through their bites. The National Institutes for Communicable Diseases (NICD) encourages everyone to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to be aware of the symptoms of malaria.
The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to apply an insect repellent to exposed skin, especially after dark. The NICD also warns that herbal repellents, such as citronella oil, do not work very effectively. Inside the house, mosquito coils, fans, air-conditioning, and maybe even mosquito nets can be used to reduce mosquitoes. Furthermore, stop mosquitoes from breeding near the house by eliminating any standing water.
Visitors to high-risk areas should consider taking prophylactic drugs. This may not be as important when visiting an urban area and staying in air-conditioned hotel rooms, compared to going on a safari. The drugs should be started at least two days before visiting a high-risk area and are now available at pharmacies without a prescription. However, get the advice of the pharmacist as some of the prophylactic drugs are not suitable for pregnant women and young children.
The early symptoms of malaria are very similar to those of flu – headache, fever with shivers alternating with hot sweats, muscles aches and possibly also vomiting and diarrhoea. If you live or have travelled in a malaria area and experience these symptoms – especially in summer – consult a doctor or clinic urgently.
Insist on a rapid malaria test which provides quick results so that treatment can be started immediately. Early treatment is usually very effective but a delay in treatment makes malaria more difficult to treat and increases the chances of serious complications and death.