I get asked about malaria every time someone books a safari with us and for good reason… Malaria is a concern in certain areas in South Africa, but in saying that we do not have a problem unlike other Africa countries and are rated as a moderate risk African country by the WHO

Malaria mortality rates have fallen by 47% globally since 2000 and this is due to people taking anti-malarial medication and also being careful during the evenings and early mornings in malaria areas. South Africa has, on average between 1000-2000 reported cases of malaria each year, mostly from rural areas where there is no preventative measures taken and where over-population is a challenge. The rule of thumb generally is, the fewer people, the fewer cases as the Anopheles mosquitoes need blood to breed

Here is a guide to malaria in our area, Greater Kruger Park…

It is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and if not appropriately treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, re-infection typically causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria

The disease is transmitted most commonly by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce. Five species of Plasmodium can infect and be spread by humans. Most deaths are caused by P. falciparum or commonly referred to as cerebral malaria, however this is mostly found in mosquitoes that live in tropical climates

The signs and symptoms of malaria typically begin 8–25 days following infection; however, symptoms may occur later in those who have taken antimalarial medications as prevention and that is the most common complaint I get from my guests about the medication. Initial flu-like symptoms are most common, but other conditions such as septicemia, gastroenteritis and viral diseases can crop up. Generally speaking though, symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever and shivering
  • Joint pain
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in your urine

Cerebral malaria symptoms arise 9–30 days after infection and include:

  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures

Malaria is curable and, if caught in time you can make a full recovery. However, pregnant woman, older people and children under two years of age are at risk

I always tell my guests – if you get sick in the next month, please go to your GP and tell them you were in a malaria area… Better to be safe than sorry

The easiest and most cost-effective way to prevent getting bitten is by having nets over your bed and wearing long sleeves and long pants and socks in the evening and early morning

There are a few different brands of mosquito repellents out there that work very well for deterring mosquitoes. Some are natural based, some are chemical based and contain Deet (a slightly yellow oil and is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents) which is very proficient at preventing mosquito bites and would be our preferred choice. Deet has been given a bad name in recent times, but mosquitoes hate the smell of it and if used on your clothing instead of directly on your skin it can be very effective. When used as directed, products containing between 10% and 30% Deet have been found by the American Academy of Pediatrics to be safe to use on children, as well as adults, but recommends that Deet not be used on infants less than two months old

The most common choice by our guests is to use medication. We recommend that you ask your GP about Doxycycline and a combination of atovaquone and proguanil as they carry the least amount of side effects. There is another drug called mefloquine, but we would caution you against that as it carries unwanted side effects and can make some people very moody. Regardless, always follow what your GP prescribes. The protective effect does not begin immediately, and people visiting areas where malaria exists usually start taking the drugs one to two weeks before arriving and continue taking them for four weeks after leaving (except for atovaquone/proguanil, which only needs to be started two days before and continued for seven days

Even though we are a moderate risk destination, always chat to a GP at least a month before you travel to get the best advise

An effective vaccine is not yet available for malaria, although several are under development. There is however a trial vaccine that is going to be licensed for use this year sometime (2015)

The problem they have with this is the Plasmodium virus changes its ‘makeup’ very often and trying to keep up with it is nearly impossible

Anopheles is a genus of mosquito first described and named by J. W. Meigen in 1818. There are about 460 species recognised; while over 100 can transmit human malaria, only 30–40 commonly transmit parasites of the genus Plasmodium. The name comes from the Greek αν, an, meaning “not”, and όφελος, óphelos, meaning “profit”, and translates to “useless”. Adults can be identified by their typical resting position: males and females rest with their abdomens sticking up in the air rather than parallel to the surface on which they are resting. Adult mosquitoes usually mate within a few days after emerging from the pupal stage. In most species, the males form large swarms, usually around dusk, and the females fly into the swarms to mate. Males live for about a week, feeding on nectar and other sources of sugar. Females will also feed on sugar sources for energy, but usually require a blood meal for the development of eggs. After obtaining a full blood meal, the female will rest for a few days while the blood is digested and eggs are developed. This process depends on the temperature, but usually takes 2–3 days in tropical conditions. Once the eggs are fully developed, the female lays them and resumes host-seeking. The cycle repeats itself until the female dies. While females can live longer than a month in captivity, most do not live longer than one to two weeks in nature. Their lifespans depend on temperature, humidity, and their ability to successfully obtain a blood meal while avoiding host defenses