Malaria season in South Africa

Drugs and syringe for malaria treatment

In South Africa, the peak summer malaria season has arrived, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has issued warnings for travellers to domestic or international destinations to ensure adequate protection.

As of the end of October 2018, more than 16,000 cases and 110 deaths had been reported which, although lower than during the large uptick in malaria seen in the 2017-18 season, is more than the average over the 10-year period 2007-16, which was around 7,600 cases per year.

Malaria is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Although it can be fatal, most people can make a full recovery if it is diagnosed and treated promptly. Common symptoms of infection include: chills; high fever; profuse sweating; headache; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain; diarrhoea; convulsions; and bloody stools.

Many people will be exposed to the disease in the holiday season because of their travel to higher transmission areas. Travellers to southern Africa should discuss their itinerary and preventative medication with their healthcare provider and travellers returning from malaria transmission areas should seek medical advice if they experience ‘flu- like’ illness that occurs up to four to six weeks after first possible exposure. Although there is no vaccine to prevent infection, precautions such as sleeping under a mosquito net may help prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito, as can covering the skin and using bug sprays containing DEET.