The end of the year is approaching and with it fortunately comes the promise of the long-awaited summer holidays. With many of us choosing to visit the Kruger Park or Mozambique it’s important that we turn our attention to malaria.
Malaria is an important disease in Africa, spread by the female anopheles mosquito who is infected with the palciparum organism. Malaria is largely preventable and treatable but in those who are unable to access this treatment, it can be a serious and deadly threat.
The WHO estimated that in 2015, 438000 people died from malaria, the majority under the Age of 5. To put that into context Its estimated that in Africa one child dies ever two minutes from malaria.
The areas at risk include Mozambique, Zimbabwe, northern and eastern Mpumalanga and northern KZN.
High risk season is during the rainy months from November to April each year.
The main types of Malaria are plasmodium falciparum, vivax and ovale. P. Falciparum accounts for about 75% of cases with Vivax about 20%. Vivax is mostly found in malaria outside of Africa and this and Ovale tend to have milder but more relapsing symptoms.
Symptoms can develop 7-30 days after being bitten and these are mostly flu like in nature. They include fever, sweats, generalised body ache, headaches, diarrhea and tiredness. It can also cause complications if the infection progresses to involve the kidneys lungs or brain. It’s very important that you take note of any of these symptoms after recently visiting a malaria area and to seek medical help straight away.
There are many measures that help prevent the transmission of Malaria. These include avoiding being outdoors at night, wearing long sleeved and legged clothing, using mosquito nets, sprays and coils etc.
Anti-malaria tablets (prophylaxis) are available from your doctor, they must be taken 24hours before entering the area and continued for 4weeks after your departure. The two main malaria pills I script are Malanil and Doxycycline. Both taken daily starting 1-2days before and continued for 1 week after returning in the case of Malanil and 1month after returning in the case of Doxycycline.
It’s still important to take the above precautions as there is still a small risk of transmission. Any symptoms despite the prophylaxis should still be evaluated by your doctor.
In terms of ages I’d usually avoid taking children to a malaria area especially if under the age of 5. Prevention is only available in children over 11kg weight (Malanil) and over the age of 8 (Doxycycline)
If a blood test confirms malaria it can be treated with oral or intravenous drugs depending on the situation.
So, for those planning a summer holiday in any of those areas, please make an appointment to see your GP to get the correct anti Malaria treatment and stop the risk of contracting Malaria.
Contributor: Dr Susan Ford.