South Africa has recorded over 7 400 malaria cases between January and October this year, with only 17% of these having been locally acquired.
This means that more people got infected while out of the country, while the country logged at least 66 deaths during the same period.
The Department of Health has since urged all people travelling to and from malaria-endemic or high-risk areas to take the appropriate precautionary measures to prevent possible infection, as the country enters malaria season. “Summer season marks the start of the malaria period in South Africa due to higher temperatures and increased rainfall in the malaria transmission areas,” the department explained.
Cases are starting to rise in some parts of the country, especially in high-risk areas. Malaria symptoms include headache, fever, chills, and muscle and joint pain. The department advised citizens who experience these signs to visit their local health facility without delay for effective treatment.
“Late presentation to a health facility with symptoms is one of the contributing factors to increasing malaria morbidity and mortality rates,” the department said. Malaria is defined as a life-threatening, but preventable and curable disease. “Early detection saves lives,” the department stressed.
The department has since intensified its malaria response plan through screening and testing around borders in high-risk provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo throughout the year for early detection of imported cases. The department will conduct public education campaigns and do indoor spraying in high-risk areas every year.
The department advised pregnant women and children under five to avoid malaria-endemic areas, unless they are very careful. The Gauteng Department of Health is focusing on public transport areas to educate people about preventing malaria on Malaria Day. This comes as Gauteng hospitals reported 1 105 malaria cases and 10 deaths from January to September 2023, because of the life-threatening disease spread to humans by mosquitoes in endemic areas.
“The department added that the majority of people who were admitted and those who died as a result of the disease had traveled to Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Angola. These regions are known as malaria endemic areas.”