The traditional malaria season in southern Africa is from Sept to May, but cases occur throughout the year. The seasonal peak in malaria cases is usually from November to end of April. The annual spraying of houses in the malaria areas will start in October and preparations are in progress. It is not possible to predict the nature of the season but every confirmed case of malaria is reported and investigated, and trends are closely monitored. Compared with 2018, by June 2019 (most recent data available) there was a 39% reduction in SA total cases for the same period, and in Mpumalanga, an 87% reduction.
Visitors to northern KwaZulu-Natal Province, the lowveld areas of Mpumalanga Province, including the the Kruger National Park and areas bordering the park, north-eastern Limpopo Province, and especially those visiting Mozambique, must take precautions against mosquito bites by using effective insect repellent applied to exposed skin areas after sunset, and use mosquito coils, fans and airconditioning, and even mosquito nets, in high-risk areas. Visitors should consider taking prophylactic drugs if visiting high-risk areas.
Most important is to be aware of the symptoms of malaria, which are very non-specific and overlap with those of influenza (although the influenza season is drawing to a close). Anybody who has a ‘flu-like illness fever, with headache, cold shivers, hot sweats, muscle pains, and even vomiting and diarrhoea, who has travelled or lives in a malaria area, must seek very urgent care, must insist on a malaria blood test, and get results promptly. If negative, the test should be repeated; if positive, treatment must be started urgently. Malaria is eminently treatable if diagnosed and treated in the first 48 hours after symptoms develop. If treatment is delayed, the infection will progress rapidly, and becomes difficult to treat; complications are common and there is a high risk of death from malaria in this situation.