Be Aware of Malaria
We need to be aware of a greater risk mosquitoes bring: Malaria
For most of us, a mosquito is just an irritating pest who makes us itchy or keeps us awake with its buzzing noise.
However, we need to be aware of a far greater risk, especially in Southern Africa, that mosquitos can bring: Malaria.
Malaria is caused by a parasite (a harmful life form) that lives in some mosquitos. When these mosquitos bite people – it then infects us.
Malaria is a disease that can be prevented and treated. However, if the correct medical help is not given – it can kill.
According to the World Health Organisation:
- Every year there are over 200 million new malaria cases around the world.
- Every two minutes a child dies from this disease.
- In 2017, approximately 435 000 people died from this treatable illness.
In South Africa, we have three provinces that carry a risk of malaria: these are the north-eastern part of Limpopo, the eastern part of Mpumalanga, as well as northern Kwazulu-Natal.
The South African Department of Health, says that about 10% of South Africa’s population is at risk of getting malaria.
In addition, our neighbours, like Zimbabwe, Zambia and especially Mozambique, are also places where there is a malaria risk.
This month, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (an organisation that works to stop diseases from spreading) put out various warning for those travelling during the Easter holidays:
- There is a risk of malaria while the weather still remains wet. This is because mosquitos like to breed in swampy, still water.
- People must be especially careful if travelling to Mozambique, because the risk of malaria is even higher after the recent cyclone.
- Pregnant woman and small children should not travel to malaria areas at the moment. This is because Mefloquine, the anti-malaria drug normally given to these groups, is not currently available in South Africa.
TEN STEPS TO PROTECTION
In general, there are a number of ways in which you can protect yourself from getting malaria if you are in a malaria-risk area:
- Before travelling to an area where there is a risk for malaria, one should take special pills that help prevent you getting ill.
- Use items that will prevent mosquitos from biting you: this includes sprays, mats and coils. You will need to check with a doctor which items are safe to be used for children.
- Mosquitos especially bite between dusk and dawn. So make sure you wear clothing that covers your arms, legs and especially your wrists and ankles at night.
- Try and stay indoors at night.
- Make sure your windows and doors have screens on them or are closed.
- Use a fan or an air conditioner as this seems to also help prevent mosquitos from biting.
- Sleep with anti-mosquito netting over your bed.
- Try avoid camping in huts and tents during the wet summer months when there is a higher risk of malaria.
- Contact the provincial health department to ensure that they come and spray your home with a substance that should protect you.
- Make sure your home is not near swampy areas of water and make sure that the drains in the area are keeping water flowing away.
- Depending on which pills you are given, you need to take them from between a week to a day before you enter the malaria area.
- Very importantly, you will need to keep taking the tablets during your stay, as well as for up to a month after your travels.
- No medicine can offer 100% protection so make sure that you take other actions to prevent yourself from getting malaria.
In addition, if you permanently live in an area that is at risk for malaria:
Watch out for the following signs that you might have malaria.
- Pains in your body
Most of the symptoms of malaria might seem like you have flu. However, if you experience any of these signs, you must get medical attention immediately.
It is also important to know that symptoms for malaria usually show up within two weeks of being infected. In some cases though, it can take up to six months for the signs of malaria to show up.
Therefore, always rather be safe than sorry. If you have been in a malaria-risk area and are not feeling well, check in with a doctor.
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