Media Release: Malaria Situation In Kruger National Park
Many requests for information about malaria in the Kruger National Park (KNP) are being received from prospective visitors, and the South African National Parks (SANP) wishes to provide facts and perspective on the current situation.
Southern Africa in general has for several years now experienced a trend of increasing malaria, caused by good rainfall which promotes mosquito breeding, increasing resistance of malaria parasites to some of the mostcommonly used anti-malarial drugs, as well as increasing resistance of mosquitoes to some of the insecticides used for control. South Africa in particular has also experienced increased cross-border entry by people infected with malaria parasites, thus increasing the reservoir of infection. In 1999 South Africa experienced the highest number of malaria cases recorded in several decades.
The recent floods experienced widely over the sub-continent have greatly contributed to increased breeding opportunities for malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, and predictions are that malaria transmission is likely to increase considerably in weeks to come.
The Kruger National Park has for many decades maintained a malaria-control programme aimed at reducing the risk of this disease to visitors and staff. All residential units (huts and houses) are sprayed with a long-lasting, environmentally-safe insecticide to control adult mosquitoes, larval breeding sites are treated, mosquito gauze is installed covering windows of residential units, mosquito repellent formulations are made available to visitors in all shops, and information brochures on malaria are made available periodically. The effect of this Programme has been that malaria incidence within the KNP is much lower than in virtually all neighbouring areas, and very few visitors to the Park get the disease. Annual incidence of malaria within the KNP averages between 200 and 700, the vast majority of cases being amongst staff many of whom contract the disease whilst visiting family in areas adjoining the Kruger Park. Close on one million visitors annually enter the KNP, and few of these persons contract malaria.
Peak transmission of malaria in the malaria areas of South Africa is between October and May, with the period of highest risk being February to early-May. While all persons entering malaria areas are at risk, you can reduce your risk of contracting the disease to almost negligible levels by taking anti-malarial medication (either weekly Lariam or the combination of daily Paludrine and weekly Chloroquine, the latter being sold as a variety of brand names), together with other measures such as applying mosquito repellent especially to ankles and feet, using vaporising insecticide coils or mats, and wearing socks and shoes when outdoors in the evening. The malaria-transmitting mosquitoes bite at night, only under very exceptional circumstances during the day.
People who should be especially careful to avoid infection are pregnant women, small children, transplant patients and others with reduced immune response (AIDS patients), and elderly people.
Malaria is relatively easy to treat if diagnosis is done early and correct treatment initiated. If you develop any flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain then immediately consult your doctor and specifically request that malaria be tested for. Complications and fatalities are usually associated with late diagnosis and delayed treatment.
Despite the bleak picture painted above, the message should be seen more as an attempt to create an awareness of the malaria situation generally, rather than as a warning of a dire situation. People can still enjoy a wonderful and carefree holiday in the Kruger Park, even in this period of exceptional rain, provided they take basic precautions to safeguard them from infection. The Kruger Park is still a far safer and more enjoyable destination than walking the streets of any of our major cities!
For more information, call the SANP’s malaria hotline on 082 234 1800, or visit www.parks-sa.co.za (click on the malaria hyperlink).
Dr Salifou Siddo
Head: Corporate Affairs
South African National Parks
Tel: (012) 343 9770; Fax: (012) 343 0153
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