Mbombela – With mosquito season well under way, Mpumalanga’s health department has said malaria rates were finally decreasing after a worrying rise in previous years.
Department spokesperson Christopher Nobela said only 179 local malaria cases were recorded between April 1 and November 16 this year.
This was compared to the alarming rises from 273 cases in 2012/13 to 754 the following year and 1 061 in 2014/15.
“When looking at the current monthly reported local cases, it is evident local cases are significantly lower than in the previous two years. The malaria incidence stands at 0.1 per 1000 people which is within the target,” he told a News24 correspondent.
However, he warned the high transmission period had only just started, which could affect the target.
R52m budget for malaria control
Nobela said malaria prevalence in 2014/15 was 0.61 per 1 000 people – more than three times the 0.2 target.
The department has an annual R52m budget for malaria control and focused on surveillance, indoor residual spraying, malaria case management and malaria awareness.
Nobela said to commemorate the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Month in November, the department had embarked on house-to-house spraying and awareness campaigns in Bushbuckridge, Mbombela and Nkomazi.
He said 3 198 people were reached with malaria messages. These included warnings to go to health facilities for early diagnosis and treatment when suffering fever, headache or body pains.
“We also urged communities to allow their houses to be sprayed and to avoid mosquito bites by using long clothing and repellent lotions on exposed skin during the night,” Nobela said.
According to department statistics, Mpumulanga malaria cases had decreased from more than 12 000 in the 1999/2000 financial year.
Best form of intervention
Despite decreasing malaria cases across Africa, Bayer environmental science head Sylvester Jobic said the disease remained Africa’s number one cause of hospitalisation and deaths.
“Malaria causes more deaths than HIV and tuberculosis, considering there is a malaria-related death every 30 seconds in Africa, predominantly among women and children. Despite increased initiatives to combat malaria, the challenge is there continues to be major gaps in intervention coverage,” Jobic said in a press statement.
Jobic added the two most successful interventions were insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying.
“Prevention has proven to be the best form of intervention… South Africa has been successful in its elimination programme, because it ran well coordinated spraying campaigns. This is a clear illustration if we use existing tools correctly, we can make great strides in places or countries that are struggling,” he said.