Four cases of malaria have been reported in Kilner Park, Pretoria, affecting persons with no recent history of travel to malaria transmission areas. Fortunately all the patients have survived. It is most likely that an Anopheles malaria vector mosquito, which had been accidentally transported by a vehicle from a malaria area, was responsible. This form of disease is called odyssean malaria, also known as airport, suitcase, minibus, or taxi-rank malaria. Since 2007, 69 such cases have been recorded in South Africa, mostly in Gauteng Province. Understandably, the absence of a travel history often leads to the diagnosis of malaria being delayed, with ‘flu being most commonly assumed as the cause of illness. Experts from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases are assisting the Tshwane Department of Health to investigate the incidents, specifically looking for evidence of temporary vector mosquito-breeding in the area.
Local residents are advised to take preventive measures against mosquito bites in and around their homes, and to seek medical attention for ‘flu-like feverish illness that progressively worsens over a short period. Medical practitioners need to be aware of the similarity in symptoms between influenza and early malaria infection. The chance finding of abnormally low platelet counts, in blood samples tested in diagnostic laboratories for unexplained illness, may indicate malaria infection and should be further investigated.