Malaria deaths show downturn

Posted on April 25, 2013

According to Prof De Jager malaria cases have declined by 89,41% (63 663 in 2000 as opposed to 6 741 in 2010). Deaths decreased by 85,4% (453 as opposed to 66) during the same period.

Incidents of malaria in children younger than five years decreased by 93% (6 791 in 2000 as opposed to 451 in 2010). Limpopo Province noted the smallest decrease compared with other provinces (56,1% decrease – 9 487 as opposed to 4 174).

‘This points to a considerable decrease, given the fact that South Africa stopped using the insect repellent DDT in 1996 in certain malaria areas. However, this resulted in an increase in malaria cases, from some 10 000 in 1995 to 64 622 in 2000. The Department of Health re-allowed the use of DDT in 2000. Cases of malaria then dropped from 26 506 in 2001 to 9 866 in 2011,’ Prof De Jager said.

UP is one of the institutions doing research about malaria and the prevention thereof. The Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP CSMC) was formed at the University in 2011. The aim is the advancement of co-operative research within the University about safer and sustainable malaria control and management.

This includes the work of Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, Chair for Sustainable Malaria Control, as well as that of Prof Walter Focke, who developed nets containing insecticides.

‘Every person living in a malaria-infested area, as well as those visiting such areas, can contribute to the end of malaria in South Africa. Transmission of the disease can be diminished by preventing mosquito bites, for instance by using mosquito netting and mosquito repellents,’ Prof De Jager said.

Warning lights are, however, flickering and they cannot be ignored. First, a shortage in funding makes it difficult to buy enough pesticide for those areas that have to be sprayed. This, coupled with a decrease in good control, may lead to malaria cases increasing drastically in years when there is no spraying, the professor said.

Second, it does not help much if South Africa applies good control measures when immigrants from other malaria-infested countries enter the country because of poor control. An abnormal increase in cases of malaria was for instance noticed in January 2005.

This happens because of the return of migrant workers (both legal and illegal) to South Africa after the December holidays. The incidence of malaria is considerably higher in South Africa’s three neighbours bordering on Limpopo. These countries do have control measures, but the situation there is much worse than in South Africa, Prof De Jager said.

‘In spite of that, new techniques are discovered and old ones are improved. Every day that malaria is confronted in some way, we are a step closer to finally winning the war against the disease,’ he said.



Malaria myths

  • It is better to take no preventative steps, because that hides symptoms and makes it harder to diagnose the disease.
  • There is a new, deadly type of malaria.
  • Preventative medicines offer no protection against the development of cerebral malaria.
  • Malaria is incurable.
  • Preventative medicines need only to be taken during a visit to a malaria area.
  • One can stop using these medicines if you have not been bitten.
  • People who are seldom bitten by mosquitoes need not take preventative medicines.
  • It does not help to take medicines against malaria as it is not 100% effective.
  • The side effects of the preventative medicines are worse than malaria itself.
  • Garlic, Vitamin B and ultrasound equipment can protect you against malaria.
  • You need not take preventative steps if you are going to be in a malaria area for only a few days.
  • Mosquitoes only bite after dark.
  • The pesticide DDT is the best weapon against malaria.
  • Climate change will cause a sharp rise in the number of malaria cases.
  • Malaria cannot be transmitted through blood transfusions.
  • Malaria is only a danger to young people and senior citizens.
  • You need not worry about malaria in the dry season.
  •  Malaria can be cured with homeopathic medicines and the use of herbs.




Malaria facts

  • The female Anopheles mosquito is known as the ‘silent killer’. The mosquitoes make no sound and their bites are not as visible as those of other mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes can develop resistance to various types of anti-malaria medicines.
  • Mosquitoes bite everybody. Nationality provides no immunity against malaria.
  • Malaria does not always cause death, especially if treatment starts early. This excludes cerebral malaria.
  • Malaria is now prevalent in more than 90 countries.
  • The P falciparum infection dominates malaria contracted from other parasite species.
  • Most people know malaria is a dangerous disease, but many incorrectly believe that preventative medicines are good enough for protection.
  • Half the world’s population is exposed to the risk of malaria. Annually some 250 million cases of malaria are reported worldwide and about one million patients die of the disease.
  • Only one bite by a malaria carrying mosquito is enough to give you malaria. Even for a short visit to a malaria-infested area one should take preventative medicines and avoid bites.
  • Many countries have a wet and a dry season, and although mosquitoes become more active during the wet season, they can be active in the dry season as well.
  • Anti-malaria medicines are between 90% and 100% effective if used correctly according to prescription. Coupled with good bite-prevention actions, malaria transmission can be prevented.
  • Mosquitoes don’t discriminate between poor or rich people. Unfortunately people living in the poorest countries remain the most susceptible.
  • DDT can be effective in areas where mosquitoes have not yet developed resistance to it.
  • Climate change cannot be blamed for an increase in the number of malaria cases. The main reasons for the disease are the ecology and the behaviour of both man and mosquito.
  • Malaria can be transmitted during blood transfusion. This, however, happens very seldom.

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