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The traveller’s guide to malaria in South Africa

malaria in South Africamalaria in South Africa
malaria in South Africamalaria in South Africa

The traveller’s guide to malaria in South Africa

Travellers to and around South Africa often wonder about the issue of malaria when visiting our beautiful country. It can be a scary fact to consider when travelling, but it should be taken seriously. Below is some useful advice for those who will be visiting South Africa and are concerned about the threat of malaria.

 

Is there malaria in South Africa?

One of the most common questions that tourists ask is, “Is there malaria in South Africa?” and the unfortunate answer is yes. Malaria is endemic to certain areas of South Africa, including north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. These areas have conditions that are conducive to the transmission of malaria.

Malaria occurs in lower altitude areas and is a seasonal disease which has a low transmission period between May and September. You will see mosquitoes in South Africa, but not all of these mosquitoes are able to transmit malaria. The Anopheles female mosquito is a known carrier of the malaria virus and generally bite between dusk and dawn.

 

Remember the ABCs of malaria prevention

There is a very helpful guide to preventing malaria when travelling to any country considered to be a malaria areas: the ABCs of malaria prevention. They are outlined below.

  • Awareness: be aware of your risk
  • Bite preventions: take necessary preventions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes
  • Chemoprophylaxis: use prophylaxis to protect yourself against malaria when necessary
  • Diagnosis: insist on diagnostic tests if a fever develops a week or more after exposure to malaria
  • Effective treatment: malaria treatments are readily available and it is important to acquire the right treatment for your circumstances

If you keep these in mind when travelling to the malaria areas in South Africa, you will be able to prevent any possible risk of contracting the virus.

 

What precautions should you take?

The female Anopheles mosquito only bites between dusk and dawn, which means that precautions need to be taken during these times especially, but you should always try to prevent mosquito bites at all times of the day. The list below outlines some of the measures you can take to prevent being bitten.

  • Wear long trousers, socks and shirts: By covering the vulnerable parts of your body, you are limiting the places where you could possibly be bitten. This is especially required if you are planning on camping or taking part in activities during the biting period of the Anopheles female.
  • Use topical mosquito repellents: Applying topical mosquito repellents to exposed areas of skin is an effective way to deter mosquitoes and other insects. You should look for options that contain at least 20% DEET for maximum effectiveness.
  • Use mosquito nets: Using a mosquito net while you are sleeping will ensure that no mosquitoes are able to reach you during the night. You can even find mosquito nets that have been soaked in a DEET formula.
  • Use air conditioners and fans: Many hotel rooms in South Africa have air conditioners and fans due to the humidity and using the fans and air conditioners will stop mosquitoes from entering your hotel room. This is due to the fact that mosquitoes cannot fly in such high-speeds.

 

What are the symptoms of malaria?

It is vital to know the symptoms of malaria, as this will help you to ascertain whether or not you or a family member has contracted it. The symptoms of malaria include flu-like symptoms and a fever up to one month after the visit to South Africa ends.

You will know if you have contracted malaria if you feel a sudden onset of fever, chills and/or sweating, headaches, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain and fatigue. Should you experience any combination of these symptoms, alert your doctor immediately and do not forget to tell them that you have been travelling to a malaria area. You will also need to explain what malaria medications you took before, during and after your trip.

 

Who is most at risk?

While all of us are at risk of contracting malaria, there are some who are even more at risk than others. If you have a compromised immune system or have been receiving chemotherapy, you may be more at risk than others and should consult your doctor about which malaria medication best suits you.

Those who should take extra precaution when travelling to South Africa’s areas affected by malaria include children under five years of age, adults over 65 years of age, pregnant and breastfeeding women, those on long-term steroids and those suffering from HIV/AIDS. It is advisable to have a full physical examination before travelling, to ascertain whether or not it is a wise decision to make in your particular condition.

 

Conclusion

Exploring the world is an exciting adventure, but can also come with its own dangers. Malaria is entirely preventable if you take the right steps and remember the ABCs of malaria prevention. Taking the right medication for your circumstances, carrying a high DEET percentage repellent with you and knowing the symptoms of malaria will allow you to safely enjoy your holiday in sunny Mzansi.

malaria in South Africa