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Malaria – what you need to know

Today marks World Malaria Day, ER24 is urging people to take precautions against the life-threatening disease when travelling to a high-risk area. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite, called Plasmodium, which is transmitted to people by the female Anopheles mosquito. The parasites multiply rapidly in the liver and red blood cells of the infected person.

The National Department of Health and ER24 offers some recommendations of how you can protect yourself against mosquito bites and malaria when travelling to high-risk areas:

  • Wear long-sleeved clothing when outside at night
  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET (Diethyltoluamide)
  • Sleep under a mosquito net treated with insecticide
  • Spray insecticide inside the house after closing windows and doors
  • Take only medicines recommended by a health professional
  • Start taking the recommended medication before entering the malaria risk area and use as prescribed

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated number of malaria deaths in 2017, at 435 000, remained virtually unchanged over the previous year.

Who is at risk?

In 2017, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the WHO regions of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas are also at risk. In 2017, 87 countries and areas had ongoing malaria transmission.

Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under five years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms present one to two weeks after a person is infected and may include:

  • Fever
  • A headache
  • Chills
  • Muscular pain

Seek medical attention if you have any of the above symptoms and inform the doctor of your travel history.

Read Bert-Louw’s real-life story here.