Which animal brings death to the largest number of people per year in Africa? Is it the lion, the crocodile, the hippo or the snake?
The answer is a creature much smaller than any of these: the Anopheles mosquito, carrier of the malaria parasite, which kills more than one million people per year in Africa, mostly children under the age of five. And although there are times when malaria is very much less active, at any time of year you are at risk when you enter a malarial area.
One such area is the Kruger National Park, especially the eastern part. During the warm summer months (October to May), the Park is considered to be an intermediate to high risk area for malaria, so visitors quite rightly take prophylaxis to prevent infection. However, many opt to visit in June to September, considered ‘low risk’ months, because they believe they don’t need to take any medication then.
Low risk does not mean No risk
But what everyone forgets is that "Low risk does not mean No risk"!
Yearly, there are cases reported of people who get malaria in the ‘low risk’ months. It is also important to remember that Mozambique forms the eastern border of the Kruger National Park – Mozambique is considered to be a high risk area for malaria the whole year round.
Netcare Travel Clinic strongly cautions that people planning to be in that area at all to definitely take steps to protect themselves and their family against malaria.
How to prevent malaria
First line of defence: don’t get bitten
Personal protective measures against mosquito bites are the cornerstone of malaria prevention, whether in a high risk or a low risk area:
- Wear long sleeves and long pants from dusk until dawn
- Sleep under mosquito nets
- Use lotions, sprays and coils to kill or repel mosquitoes.
Second line of defence: take whatever prophylactic measures are advised by your doctor or travel clinic
Anti-malaria medication might be indicated for certain risk groups and individuals; travellers need to be individually assessed to ensure that there are no drug interactions, contra indications or side effects on the medication.
Third line of defence: be alert to any signs of illness after visiting a malarial area, no matter what time of year
You should strongly suspect malaria if you fall ill after returning from a visit to a malarial area, even if it’s ‘low risk’ geographically, or you visited at a ‘low risk’ period.
Consult your doctor or clinic for a malaria test if you have flu like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, joint pain, etc.) or gastro enteritis symptoms (like nausea or vomiting).
Always tell your doctor of any places that you have travelled to recently (i.e. the last six months).
- Adapted from an SAA-Netcare Travel Clinics press release by Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24. Updated November 2010.