Residents and travellers in designated areas of Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, or Mpumalanga face a significant threat of contracting the deadly infectious disease, malaria, which claims the lives of around half a million individuals in Africa annually.
These alarming findings were highlighted by Professor Lucille Blumberg. Blumberg is the person who was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award for her remarkable efforts towards eradicating malaria in Southern Africa, as recognised at the Southern African Malaria Research Conference.
Given this stark alert, it’s important to note that residents of Newcastle, Ladysmith, Dundee, and Dannhauser need not be overly concerned about the risk of malaria contraction. This assurance is derived from the Malaria Risk Map provided by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which underscores that these areas currently have a lower vulnerability to malaria transmission.
The regions within Northern KwaZulu-Natal that have been identified as at risk include:
Professor Blumberg, who heads local NPO Right to Care’s One Health programme, expressed her concern over the devastating impact of malaria related fatalities, stating, “It is devastating to see patients die from malaria when there are excellent tests as well as drugs for treatment.
Health resources were diverted to Covid-19 during the pandemic which has contributed to a decrease in awareness about malaria.”
Malaria, a disease transmitted by parasites through mosquito bites, is not always preventable, Professor Blumberg emphasised, yet it remains treatable. Recognisable symptoms of malaria include fever and flu like conditions, accompanied by intense chills, headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue.
“Many people who develop fever or flu symptoms think it is Covid-19 or influenza, so they do not go to a health facility. If you live in or have travelled to a malaria area and you have symptoms it is critical to go to a health facility and inform your healthcare provider that you have been in a malaria area,” stated Professor Blumberg.
A disconcerting revelation from Professor Blumberg indicated that a substantial number of South African malaria patients had recently travelled to or from Mozambique, suggesting a possible transborder transmission of the disease.
The primary malaria season, spanning from September to May, necessitates heightened vigilance, although cases can emerge at any time during the year. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are imperative due to the rapid progression of malaria.
Furthermore, Professor Blumberg underlined that timely and appropriate treatment yields an almost 100% recovery rate. However, even a short delay of a day or two in treatment could prove fatal.
Concluding with a note of cautious optimism, Professor Blumberg acknowledged the positive strides made by the South African Malaria Control Programme in the past two decades, successfully curtailing local malaria transmission. These persistent endeavours have produced encouraging outcomes within malaria prone regions.
In view of these revelations, staying informed and vigilant against malaria remains paramount. Be sure to share your thoughts and perspectives on this critical issue in the comments section below.