As parts of northern South Africa enter their rainy summer season, visitors to areas where malaria is endemic are warned to pay attention to protect themselves from the dangerous mosquito-borne disease.
There have been a number of reported cases in areas where it was previously thought to have been eliminated, such as the Waterberg District in the northeast of the Limpopo province, noted Dr. Peter Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai.
"The rainy season in the northern parts of South Africa is associated with an increase in the number of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes and a considerably higher risk of contracting the disease within the endemic areas of southern Africa. The risk is highest between September and May of the following year, which is considered "the malaria season" in South Africa, "added Dr. Vincent.
Malaria infection can result in serious complications, particularly if it is not identified and treated at an early stage. Travelers need to do their homework before visiting areas where malaria may be present. Make sure you know where these areas are and understand what kinds of precautions may be needed before your trip.
Malaria is at risk in the northern part of the Limpopo province, eastern Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal, as well as parts of neighboring countries such as Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Dr. Vincent noted that the NICD earlier this year warned that there was a greater risk of acquiring malaria in endemic areas within and outside the country's borders. In addition, based on your infection data, the NICD has already proposed a change to your Malaria Risk Map for South Africa for the first time since 2013.
The map, published in the NICD Communicable Diseases Communication of September 2018, and still being approved by the Department of Health, proposes to extend low-risk malaria areas west to Lephalale in Limpopo province. and medium-risk areas beyond Musina in the west, and Hoedspruit in the northwest.
The NICD recommends that visitors from low-risk areas take precautions not to be bitten by mosquitoes, but recommends additional measures, including the use of appropriate prophylactic drugs, when visiting areas of medium or high risk in southern Africa.
When visiting one of the most at risk areas, we recommend that you adopt a comprehensive prevention strategy that includes not only the use of prophylactic medication prescribed by your doctor or travel clinic, but also take steps to avoid being bitten by a mosquito.
Those who are visiting any area where there is risk of contracting malaria, use insect repellents containing DEET in all areas of the skin that are exposed and sleep under mosquito nets impregnated with DEET at all times of the year.
Although it may be active all day on cloudy days, the malaria-carrying mosquito is usually a feeder from dusk to dawn and advised people to switch to long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, long pants and socks at night.