SADC Malaria Day 2015

On 6 November we commemorate the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Day 2015. It aims to create awareness about malaria and mobilise the community to participate in the malaria control programmes. Mosquito bite

This year's theme is Invest in the future: defeat malaria and it provides a common platform for countries to showcase their successes in malaria control and unify diverse initiatives in the changing global context. 

7 key facts 

  1. Malaria is a mosquito borne disease transmitted exclusively through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito.
  2. Malaria is preventable and curable.
  3. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission.
  4. Malaria isn’t contagious and can’t be spread from person to person like a cold or the flu.
  5. Climate conditions influence transmission as it may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity.
  6. Your own immunity is a very important factor, especially if you live in an area of moderate or intense transmission conditions. 
  7. Transmission is more intense in places where the vector mosquito lifespan is longer and where the females of local vector species bite several times in one night. A vector is any agent (person, animal, or microorganism) that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism) – in this case it’s the mosquito.


Prevention

Prevention of malaria involves protecting yourself against mosquito bites and taking antimalarial medicines. But public health officials strongly recommend that young children and pregnant women avoid traveling to areas where malaria is common.

There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration prior to traveling to an area where malaria is prevalent, these include:

  • the malaria risk in the area being visited,
  • the length of stay in the area,
  • the time of year (in areas of seasonal malaria transmission) or time of day of the visit,
  • the intensity of transmission and prevalence of drug resistant malaria in the area,
  • pregnancy, breast-feeding, age, other diseases, immune status (including those who had have a splenectomy) and concurrent medications,
  • type of accommodation, for example air conditioned rooms or camping,
  • mode of travel, for example backpacking, motoring, or flying,
  • whether the destination is rural or urban,
  • activities (safaris or jungle expeditions), especially between dusk and dawn, and
  • access to medical care.

Medicines to prevent malaria

Many effective antimalarial drugs are available. Your healthcare provider and you will decide on the best drug for you based on your:

  • travel plans,
  • medical history,
  • age, Malaria medication
  • drug allergies, and
  • pregnancy status.

To allow enough time for the drugs to become effective and for a pharmacy to prepare any special doses of medicine (especially doses for children and infants), visit your healthcare provider 4 to 6 weeks before travel.

Prevent mosquito bites

Apart from the obvious medications, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of exposure, for example:

  • try to avoid being outside from dusk until dawn as this is when malaria-carrying mosquitoes are the most active,
  • wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside,
  • use mosquito repellents and be sure to apply as instructed on the label directions,
  • stay in a room that has air conditioning, screens on windows and doorways, and a mosquito net surrounding your bed, and
  • use insect repellent spray indoors.

Signs and symptoms

Following the bite of an infected mosquito, you may remain asymptomatic for 12 to 35 days, depending on the species of malaria. This is known as the incubation period.

Malaria should be suspected if you or someone you know have an unexplained fever after visiting an area where malaria is common. The symptoms of malaria include:

  • fever,
  • chills,
  • sweating,
  • headaches,
  • body aches,
  • tiredness,
  • stomach problems, for example loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, belly pain, and diarrhoea,
  • coughing,
  • jaundice (skin that looks yellow), or
  • fast heart rate or breathing. Doctor examining boy

When malaria becomes severe, it can cause symptoms such as:

  • confusion,
  • hallucinations,
  • seizures, and
  • dark or bloody urine.

Who is at risk?

Malaria can affect everyone, but those most at risk are:

  • children under 5, 
  • pregnant women,
  • people living in emergency situations, and
  • people living with HIV/AIDS. 
Because the malaria parasite is found in red blood cells of an infected person, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood. Malaria may also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn infant before or during delivery (‘congenital’ malaria).

South Africa poses a rather low threat of malaria as the disease is only mildly present in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo (including the Kruger National Park), and Mpumalanga.

For more information please visit

Videos

Malaria No More 2014 benefit video

 

Mosquitos, malaria and education (Bill Gates’ TEDTalk speech)

The content on this page was last updated on 9 November 2015