Malaria hits South Africa hard

Rain­fall, hu­mid­ity pro­vide ideal breed­ing ground

African Times - - News - MOYAHABO MABEBA

AHIGH num­ber of malaria cases have been re­ported in the malaria in parts of Lim­popo, Mpumalanga and Gaut­eng. Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Diseases, the hard­est hit ar­eas in­clude some farms along the Lepha­lale River in the Water­berg dis­trict and in Mpumalanga.

The health body has con­firmed that it has noted a mod­est in­crease in such cases in the Kruger Na­tional Park and pri­vate game re­serves.

This fol­lows a very busy 2017 malaria sea­son, which peaked in April and May and ex­tended into June.

High rain­fall, hu­mid­ity and am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures os­ten­si­bly pro­vided ideal con­di­tions for malaria mos­quito breed­ing and con­trib­uted to an in­crease in malaria cases in the south­ern African re­gion.

Spokesper­son for the in­sti­tute, Si­nenhlanhla Ji­moh, said: “Un­usu­ally mild win­ter tem­per­a­tures in malaria ar­eas have al­lowed for on­go­ing mos­quito and par­a­site de­vel­op­ment and led to an early and busy malaria sea­son, which started ear­lier than ex­pected.

“The key pre­ven­tion strat­egy of the malaria con­trol pro­grammes in en­demic ar­eas is spray­ing of house­holds with long-act­ing resid­ual in­sec­ti­cides (IRS), which tar­get in­door-feed­ing mos­qui­toes. This IRS pro­gramme is in progress in malaria trans­mis­sion ar­eas in Lim­popo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal prov­inces. The 2017 pro­gramme will tar­get a larger area than in 2016.

“Early treat­ment of malaria cases is a key strat­egy and this sea­son there are ad­e­quate sup­plies of drugs and rapid malaria tests in health fa­cil­i­ties in the af­fected prov­inces to man­age the in­crease in malaria cases.”

Un­usual malaria cases, af­fect­ing per­sons with no re­cent his­tory of travel to malaria trans­mis­sion ar­eas, have been re­ported in Kil­ner Park, Theresa Park, Aka­sia in Pre­to­ria and Kemp­ton Park, Ekurhu­leni.

“Un­for­tu­nately, one pa­tient has demised. It is most likely that Anophe­les malaria vec­tor mos­qui­toes, which had been ac­ci­den­tally trans­ported by ve­hi­cles from malaria ar­eas, were re­spon­si­ble. This form of dis­ease is called odyssean malaria, also known as air­port, suit­case, minibus, or taxi-rank malaria. It is a very rare con­di­tion. Since 2007, only 72 such cases have been recorded in South Africa, mostly in Gaut­eng Prov­ince. “Un­der­stand­ably, the ab­sence of a travel his­tory of­ten leads to the di­ag­no­sis of malaria be­ing de­layed, with ‘flu be­ing most com­monly as­sumed as the cause of ill­ness.

“Ex­perts from the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Diseases are as­sist­ing the pro­vin­cial and dis­trict De­part­ments of Health to in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dents. No ev­i­dence of tem­po­rary vec­tor mos­quito-breed­ing in the ar­eas has been found, and the oc­cur­rence of these cases does not mean that malaria is spread­ing to new ar­eas in South Africa. Lo­cal res­i­dents are ad­vised to take pre­ven­tive mea­sures against mos­quito bites in and around their homes, and to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion for ‘flu-like ill­ness, mainly fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pains that pro­gres­sively wors­ens over a short pe­riod.

“Med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers need to be aware of the sim­i­lar­ity in symp­toms be­tween in­fluenza and early malaria in­fec­tion, un­der­stand that a neg­a­tive malaria test does not nec­es­sar­ily rule out the di­ag­no­sis, and to re-test if ill­ness per­sists or gets worse. The chance find­ing of ab­nor­mally low platelet counts, in blood sam­ples tested in di­ag­nos­tic lab­o­ra­to­ries for un­ex­plained ill­ness, may in­di­cate malaria in­fec­tion and should be ur­gently in­ves­ti­gated for this pos­si­bil­ity.”

Lim­popo Health spokesper­son Thabiso Teffo said: “Since Septem­ber, we have al­ready dis­patched our spray­ing teams to sev­eral house­holds in the Mopani and Vhembe re­gions.”

Asked why they haven’t send teams to the Water­berg, Teffo re­sponded: “Water­berg is not nec­es­sar­ily a malaria prone area. Our main tar­get are those ar­eas in the far north and north­east of the prov­ince.”

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