What is Malaria?

Malaria is a potentially fatal illness of tropical and subtropical regions. The disease is caused by a parasite, which is transmitted to human beings bitten by infected Mosquitoes.

Malaria facts

Which areas harbour Malaria? Within South Africa’s borders the disease is encountered mainly in Northern and Eastern area of South Africa in the provinces of Mpumalanga, Northern Kwazulu Natal and the border areas of the Limpopo and Northwest provinces.

Malaria transmission is at its highest during the warmer and wetter months of November through to April. From May through to October the risks of acquiring Malaria are reduced and quite low in the Kruger Park area as it is very dry.

How to avoid Malaria Prevention of Malaria relies on adopting personal protection measures designed to reduce the chances of attracting a mosquito bite, and the use of appropriate anti-malarial medication are important, and neither should be neglected at the expense of the other.

Personal protection measures Personal protection measures against Mosquito bites include the use of an appropriate insect repellent containing Di-ethyl Toluamide (Deet), the wearing of clothing to conceal as much of the body as practical, sleeping under Mosquito nets, and the spraying of sleeping quarters with a suitable Pyrethroid containing insecticide. Some places spray their rooms and surrounding dams where Mosquitoes breed with an eco-friendly Pyrethroid on a weekly basis.

Anti-Malaria tablets (Prophylaxis) There are a number of different types of Anti-Malaria tablets available. Choosing one depends both upon the particular area being visited, and your own medical history. Within South Africa’s borders the recommended tablets are Mefloquine (Mefliam) or Doxycycline as being the most effective. Both these drugs require a prescription. Mefloquine is taken in adult dosage of one tablet per week. This should be commenced at least one week before entering the Malaria area and continued for four weeks after leaving the area. Meflocuine is best taken at night after a meal, and with liquids. Doxycycline is taken in an adult dosage of 100mg per day, starting a day or two before entering a malaria area. Like Meflocuine it should be taken for four weeks after return. The drug should be taken after a meal, and washed down with plenty of liquid. It should be avoided in pregnancy and children. A combination of Chloroquine and Proguanil can be used as, prophylaxis and is available without a doctor’s prescription. This combination is more difficult to use than the simpler Mefloquine and Doxycycline regimes, and is believed to offer less protection.

No method of Malaria protection is 100% effective and there is still a small chance of contracting Malaria despite the taking of Anti-Malaria medication and the adoption of personal protection methods. This does not mean that Anti-Malaria and personal protection measures should be neglected, simply that any traveller developing possible symptoms of Malaria should seek medical advice despite having taken the prescribed precautions.

Malaria Symptoms Symptoms of Malaria may include a generalized body ache, tiredness, headache, sore throat, diarrhoea, and fever. It is worth emphasizing that these symptoms may not be dramatic, and can easily be mistaken for an attack of influenza or similar non-life-threatening illness. Deterioration can then be sudden and dramatic, with a rapid increase in the number of parasites in your bloodstream. A high swinging fever may develop, with marked shivering and dramatic perspiration.

If you develop any Influenza-like illness or fever within seven day of entering, or six months of departing a Malaria area, seek immediate medical attention. Blood tests should be taken to check for possible Malaria infection. It may be sensible to have a second blood test taken if a first test is negative for Malaria, to be certain of excluding the disease.

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