Malaria cases expected to rise during Easter, NICD warns

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Tuesday warned that the number of malaria cases was expected to rise as a result of travel during the Easter holidays.

Recent widespread rainfall across southern Africa exacerbated the threat. Stagnant pools of water provide perfect breeding grounds for Mosquitoes which carry the deadly disease.

NICD spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said that Malaria transmission was ongoing in South Africa and neighbouring countries.

“All residents and travellers to and from malaria transmission areas in South Africa – this includes the north-eastern parts, covering Mopani and Vhembe districts of Limpopo Province, and the western parts of the Waterberg district Thabazimbi and Lephalale areas remain at risk,” warns Jimoh.

“Other areas of high transmission risk include the lowveld of the Mpumalanga Province, including the Kruger National Park and surrounds, and the northern KwaZulu-Natal Province-Mozambique border.” 

Travellers to high transmission areas in South Africa, as well as to the neighbouring countries, are advised to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

The meticulous use of repellents containing DEET, covering bare skin after dark if outside, closing insect screens on doors and windows, and using fans or air conditioners, if available, will reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

Travellers can also consult their doctors, clinics or pharmacists for anti-malarial chemoprophylaxis. 

Recommended chemoprophylactic medications include doxycycline or atovaquone-proguanil – available without prescription – but a healthcare worker still needs to advise the best option for each individual.

“It should be noted that whilst these medications are very good at preventing malaria, they are not 100% effective,” says Jimoh.

“All travellers, whether travelling to low- or high-risk areas, are advised to be aware of the malaria symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, headaches, nausea and vomiting, body aches and general malaise, and to report to their nearest health facility or doctor if they suspect that they may have contracted malaria, even if they have used the preventive measures listed above.”