SAMA encourages travelers to get anti-malaria medicine

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pretoria - The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has advised people planning to travel to the low altitude areas of the north eastern parts of the country to get a prescription for anti-malarial medicine.

SAMA has urged travelers to the malaria-endemic areas, including the lowveld region of Mpumalanga, Northern Province and the north-eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal to visit their health care providers four to six weeks before traveling.

SAMA's Media Liaison Officer Celia Hugo said on Wednesday that malaria transmission in South Africa was seasonal with the greatest number of cases occurring between October and May.

"With the holiday season approaching, SAMA calls on holiday-makers to be aware of malaria should they consider visiting any malaria-endemic area," Hugo said, warning that pregnant women and children under five years were the most vulnerable to infection.

Malaria is contracted from the bite of a malaria-infected mosquito. The symptoms include fever and flu-like illness with cold shivers, headache, muscle aches and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also occur.

"Malaria may cause anaemia and jaundice because of the loss of red blood cells, symptoms start 10 days to four weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as eight days or up to one year later.

"Some parasites can rest in the liver for several months up to four years after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito," said Hugo.

As a preventative measures, Hugo advised travelers to take anti-malarial medicine exactly on schedule without missing doses and also use insect repellent on exposed skin and flying insect spray in the room where they sleep.

"Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn, this is the time when mosquitoes are most active, and sleep under a mosquito bed-net that has been dipped in permethrin insecticide if you are not living in screened or air-conditioned accommodation.

"Any traveler who becomes ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling or having travelled to high-risk areas and returning home, should immediately seek professional medical care, you should tell your health care provider that you have been travelling in a malaria-endemic area," Hugo said.

Malaria is one of the world's most devastating diseases, which claims about 1 million lives every year and affects an estimated 300 million people in 100 countries, with most of these deaths occurring in Africa.

During this week, South Africa will commemorate Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Awareness Week. In 2000, Health Ministers across Africa took a decision to observe this week in the month of November which marks the beginning of the malaria transmission season.