Malaria hits South Africa hard
Rainfall, humidity provide ideal breeding ground
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.”