The risk of exposure to malaria remains very real unless proper protection measures are adopted. It is essential to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place and to use appropriate anti-malarial prophylactics, both of which are important and neither should be neglected at the expense of the other.
Be aware Ingwelala is in a malaria area
The Kruger National Park offer the following advice to tourists:
Seasons with more rainfall and higher temperatures will have more malaria transmission than colder, drier seasons. However even during cooler months or periods of less rainfall you can be at risk!
The threat of malaria should not affect your decision to enjoy and experience the Kruger Park, but is just something one should be aware of and take precautions to be exposed to.
A 24-hour malaria hotline is available on +27 (0)82 234 1800 to give detailed explanation on risk and advice on precautionary measures.
What is malaria?
(The name malaria comes from the Italian "mala aria", meaning bad air.)
Malaria is always a serious disease and can be a deadly illness! In fact, over a million people worldwide die from malaria each year.
Malaria is caused by a parasitic germ (the Plasmodium family) that lives in Anopheles mosquitoes, and passed to people through bites. While all species of malaria parasites can make a person feel very ill, Plasmodium falciparum causes severe, potentially fatal malaria.
Most types of mosquito do not carry the malaria plasmodium and if one is bitten it does not mean one will contract malaria. Only mosquitoes of the anopheles genus carry the plasmodium, and then only if they have previously fed on an infected host. As the presence of people with the plasmodium in their bloodstream in the park is greatly reduced compared to past times, risk is once more reduced. One reason for these reductions is that the accommodation units in the parks are sprayed periodically throughout the year. Now that international campaigns see treatment taking place in adjacent countries such as Mozambique and Swaziland, malaria occurrence has been further reduced.
What can you do against malaria?
Visit your doctor and ask his/her advice! This applies especially to pregnant woman, your baby can be at risk. Also keep in mind that children under 5 kilos cannot take antimalarials, so the only protection they have is mosquito repellent soaps and spray...
Persons who travel to areas where P. falciparum malaria is present should be extra careful to take their antimalarial drug and to prevent mosquito bites.
Malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, these mosquitoes usually bite between dusk and dawn, in the night. To avoid being bitten, remain indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period. If out-of-doors, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Apply insect repellent (bug spray) to exposed skin.
For the prevention of malaria an insect repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is the repellent of choice. Many DEET products give long-lasting protection against the mosquitoes that transmit malaria (the anopheline mosquitoes).
A new repellent is now available that contains 7% picaridin (KBR 3023). Picaridin may be used if a DEET-containing repellent is not acceptable to the user. However, there is much less information available on how effective picaridin is at protecting against all of the types of mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Also, since the percent of picaridin is low, this repellent may only protect against bites for 1-4 hours.
Taking precautions is effective, but not 100%!
Know the Symptoms
Despite these protective measures, you may become infected with malaria.
Initial Malaria symptoms can include:
- flu-like symptoms
- muscle aches
- tummy ache
- low blood cell counts (anaemia)
- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye (jaundice)
If not promptly treated, infection with Plasmodium falciparum, the most harmful malaria parasite, may cause coma, kidney failure, and death.
A day or so later, your temperature may rise (up to 40°C) and you may have:
- mild chills
- a severe headache
- loss of appetite
You may have heard that taking antimalarial drugs masks the actual malaria. This is not strictly true, but it is harder to diagnose as for instance the parasite count is lower. So if you have malaria-like symptoms have you medic look twice. The malaria itself will not be as severe, and recovery is quicker.
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. Travellers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while travelling in a malaria-risk area or after returning home (for up to 1 year) should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician their travel history.
Take your antimalarial drug exactly on schedule. Missing or delaying doses may increase your risk of getting malaria.
For the best protection against malaria, it is important to continue taking your drug as recommended after leaving the malaria-risk area. otherwise, you can develop malaria.
Take the following precautions
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin at dusk and before going to sleep.
- Wear socks, long trousers, long sleeved clothing and closed shoes after sunset.
- Use mosquito nets in open sleeping areas.
- If flu or malaria symptoms develop after your visit to the park, consult your doctor immediately.
- Medicine alone is not sufficient to prevent malaria, all precautionary measures have also to be followed.