The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has urged people who travelling to malaria-endemic areas to take appropriate precautions in summer.
NICD Principal Medical Scientist and Head of Laboratory, Dr Jaishree Raman, said the malaria-risk areas in South Africa were at present limited to the low altitude shared international border regions of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
“According to the 2022 World Malaria report in 2021 South Africa reported 2 968 cases and 56 deaths.
“Among the three malaria-endemic provinces, Limpopo reports the highest number of cases, while KwaZulu-Natal reports the lowest number of cases,” said Raman.
The start of summer generally marks the start of the malaria season in South Africa, due to higher temperatures and increased rainfall in the malaria transmission areas.
The NICD advised travellers to consider taking antimalarial prophylaxis, particularly if travelling to the high-risk areas.
Both doxycycline and atovaquone-proguanil can be procured without a prescription from pharmacies and public sector travel clinics, the NICD said.
“Make every effort to reduce contact with mosquitoes by limiting outdoor activity after dark, covering up bare skin (including feet and ankles), using mosquito repellents containing at least 10% DEET, ensuring mosquito screens on windows are closed, and using bed nets, fans or air-conditioning, if available.
“These precautions will substantially reduce the chance of acquiring malaria but the risk is never completely removed.
“All travellers returning from malaria transmission areas, including very low-risk ones, should immediately report ‘flu-like illness’ (headache, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain) that occurs up to three weeks after first potential exposure, to the nearest healthcare facility for a malaria test.
The NICD added: “Particular care should be taken with children, as symptoms are very non specific (fever, loss of appetite and vomiting). Malaria can rapidly progress to severe illness, often with severe consequences, early diagnosis and treatment are strongly recommended.
“Healthcare workers, particularly those in non-endemic areas who are treating febrile patients, must remember to ask about their recent travel to malaria transmission areas.”