April was filled with public holidays, providing the perfect opportunity to get away for a long weekend. Unfortunately for some – especially those who traveled north to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and neighbouring countries – the eggstra weight gained in chocolates and yummy treats may not have been the only thing you brought back home.
In March 2017 official reports by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented the possibility of locally-transmitted cases of malaria. Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted through mosquito bites and is caused by parasitic protozoans.
As reported by Outbreak News Today on the 8th May, Limpopo has seen a high number of malaria cases this season, with 1648 cases and 3 deaths. An outbreak was reported in Thabazimbi and Lephalale in the western Waterberg district of Limpopo Province in February and again in early March 2017. In Mpumalanga, a malaria outbreak has been declared in the Bushbuckridge area.
It was also reported that earlier in March, two cases were reported in Swartruggens, North West Province, and two more in the Doornpoort neighborhood north of Pretoria.
What has caused the malaria outbreak?
Compared to the previous season where large-spread droughts were experienced across the country, the 2016/17 season has seen to good rainfalls and higher humidity levels. These are the ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and could be seen as a large contributing factor to the increase in malaria cases in South Africa.
A wet, warm environment provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, and especially with regular rains, a water mecca accumulates; paradise for mozzies!
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), almost double the number of cases were reported this year compared to the previous year! Furthermore, Business Day states that half of these cases were caused by local transmission, as the weather – combined with a sub-optimal household spraying programme in Limpopo – has a potentially deadly effect.
Symptoms of malaria
Malaria symptoms usually appear between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected, but in some cases symptoms may not appear until a year has passed, and sometimes even longer.
- High temperature
- Sweats and chills
- Muscle Pains
Although the symptoms of malaria are those shared by the flu, linking these to a mosquito bite can help identify the disease.
Travelers from both low and high malaria risk areas that are experiencing fever and flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention and ask for a malaria test, even if antimalarial chemoprophylaxis was taken.
Although malaria can be lethal, it is an entirely preventable and treatable disease. Treating malaria is not something that can be done with antibiotics, and should be carried out by doctors in order to successfully eliminate the Plasmodium parasite from the patient’s blood.
Early treatment is most effective, so if you are considering traveling to Limpopo (specifically the western area of the Waterberg District) or Mpumalanga, the CDC recommends antimalarial medication such as atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone ®), doxycycline, and mefloquine.
How to prevent mosquito bites
Mosquito bites not only spread malaria; other diseases such as Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever and the Zika Virus are also spread in the same manner.
Be sure to take the following precautions against mosquito bites, regardless of where and when you travel:
- Indoor residual spraying should begin in August, before the rainy season starts
- Be sure to use insect repellent when outdoors
- Stay indoors in an air-conditioned or well-screened building
- Sleep under an insecticide treated mosquito net during the peak biting period for mosquitoes (dusk and dawn).
- Mosquito traps: Installing mosquito traps and zappers will help keep these biting insects away
- Remove still standing water: mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in stagnant water. Eliminating the potential breeding sites from your property will make it less appealing to mosquitoes.
- Trim hedges and lawns: mosquitoes prefer hiding out low lying vegetation – be sure to keep your hedges and lawns trimmed!
See more tips on getting rid of mosquitoes here>
Contacting a pest controller or exterminator is the most effective way to get rid of mosquitoes. The range of services and solutions they can offer will help keep mosquitoes away and reduce the risk of mosquito bites.
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