The A-Z of malaria myths and facts

Malaria is not someone else’s problem, it is everyone’s

Thursday, April 25 2013

Malaria is not someone else’s problem, it is everyone’s. This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched its “Invest in the future. Defeat malaria” campaign, says Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Family Medical and Dental Centres.

According to WHO, the disease still kills an estimated 660 000 people globally each year, with victims mostly being children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa, says Dr Vincent. Unless precautions are taken, anyone living in or travelling to a malaria area can contract the disease and possibly die from it.

Dr Vincent has compiled this simple A-Z guide to help individuals understand malaria, protect themselves against it and know when to seek medical advice.

A is for 25 April 2013, World Malaria Day, and the Anopheles mosquitoes which transmits malaria. Only about 30 to 40 of the 3 500 mosquito species can transmit malaria. Only the females of these species transmit the disease.A is also for oral artemisinin-based monotherapies, a malaria treatment considered to be a major contributing factor to the development of resistance to artemisinin and its derivatives. WHO urges regulatory authorities in malaria-endemic countries to take measures to halt the production and marketing of these oral monotherapies and promote access to quality-assured artemisinin-based combination therapies.

B is forbite avoidance – take steps to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, such as spraying fabric insecticides on your clothes as well as wearing long-sleeved tops and long pants, especially between dusk and dawn.

C is for Coartem, a new group of artemisinin-based combination therapies developed for treating uncomplicated malaria.

D is for the 90 percent of worldwide malaria-related deaths that occur in Africa. The majority of these are children under the age of five.

E is for the huge economic costs of malaria in Africa. Malaria is estimated to cost Africa more than $12 billion every year in lost GDP.

F is for fever,chills, headache, and other flu-like symptoms of malaria. Proper diagnosis and early treatment can usually prevent severe illness and death.

G is to dispel the myth that eating garlic offers protection against malaria.

H alerts you to the fact that you may contract malaria even during a short visit to a malaria hot spot. It takes just one bite from an infected mosquito to pass on the infection.

I is for passive immunity that develops across sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is holoendemic (essentially every individual in a population is infected). This protective immunity ceases soon after the individual leaves the endemic malaria area. On return they are at greater risk of contracting malaria, as they usually take no precautions.

J - as yet there are no jabs to protect you against malaria but a vaccine for children under the age of five is being developed. The vaccine could be rolled out in the next couple of years, thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

K is for a killer disease which needs to be properly managed through early diagnosis and prompt treatment to prevent fatal outcomes. Apart from preventing further complications this also shortens the duration of the disease.

L is for the researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who allow mosquitoes to suck blood from their arms twice a week, as they develop new techniques to combat them.

M is for malaria caused by the parasites of the plasmodium species. Mosquitoes act as vectors or carriers to spread the infection to humans of all ages, from babies to the elderly. The Anopheles female mosquito usually feeds (i.e. bites humans) between dusk and dawn. Three provinces in South Africa i.e. Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal are high-risk areas for malaria, with transmission occurring predominantly between September and May.

N is for the non-suffering that an infected mosquito with the Plasmodium parasite feels, unlike the human it infects who could present with symptoms, sometimes within days of being bitten.

O is for Overlanders who should consider taking rapid malaria testing kits plus standby treatment when going to remote areas in endemic malaria regions for prolonged periods.

P is for pregnant women who should avoid travelling to areas where malaria transmission occurs, and parents are advised not to take their infants or young children to areas where there is risk of P. falciparum malaria. When this cannot be avoided, it is important to take effective preventive measures against malaria.

Q is for queries travellers should direct to their nearest travel medicine clinics or medical and pharmaceutical personnel that are up to date with the latest malaria information.

R is for Ronald Ross who in 1902 was awarded the second medical Nobel Prize for Medicine "for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it".

S is for symptoms. The time between the infective mosquito bite and the development of malaria symptoms can range from seven to 40 days depending on the type of Plasmodia involved. One strain called P. vivax, may have a prolonged incubation period of eight to ten months.

T is for testing. If you experience flu-like symptoms, always tell your doctor if you have visited a malaria area, demand a blood test and follow up on the result.

U is for sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), a form of personal protection that has been shown to reduce malaria illness, severe disease, and death among those under five years old by about 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only pyrethroid insecticides are approved for use on ITNs. These insecticides have proved to pose very low health risks to humans and other mammals, but are toxic to insects, even at very low doses.

V is for never visiting a malaria area without taking precautions because your friend says there is no need to do so. Just because they say so does not make it true.

W is for wristbands which laboratory studies conducted on 16 subjects have shown to give no protection. DEET products, however, were shown to disorientate the mosquitoes for up to 302 minutes. Citronella products gave protection for 20 minutes before reapplication had to take place.

X is to warn you to keep DEET containing repellents away from plastics including cameras and spectacle frames as it will dissolve them!

Y is for your safety when visiting a malaria area. Be aware of risks, minimise exposure to mosquito bites, take prophylactic drugs if indicated and seek early diagnosis and treatment if you suspect you may have malaria.

Z is for zero mosquito bites means no risk. You cannot contract malaria from someone else.


Contact details for your nearest travel clinic

Netcare Travel Clinics



Netcare Travel Clinic Boksburg (Johannesburg)

(011) 898-6509

Netcare Travel Clinic Jakaranda (Pretoria)

(012) 421-6805

Netcare Travel Clinic Linksfield (Johannesburg)

(011) 026-4157

Netcare Travel Clinic Rivonia (Johannesburg)

(011) 802-0059

Netcare Travel Clinic Cape Town

(021) 419-3172



Travel clinics situated within Medicross Family Medical
and Dental Centres


Medicross Benoni (Johannesburg)

(011) 425-9100


(051) 406-0200

Bluff (Durban)

(031) 466-5030

Carlswald (Johannesburg)

(011) 318-0634

Fish Hoek (Cape Town)

(021) 782-3506

Gatemax (Durban)

(031) 582-5300

Hayfields (Pietermaritzburg)

(033) 386-9208

Kenilworth (Cape Town)

(021) 683-5867

Langeberg (Cape Town)

(021) 987-1690

Malvern (Durban)

(031) 463-2055

Pinelands (Cape Town)

(021) 511-2672

Pinetown (Durban)

(031) 709-3070


(018) 293-7800


(012) 565-6091

Quintamed (Free State)

(051) 422-4911

Randburg (Johannesburg)

(011) 796-1400

Roodepoort (Johannesburg)

(011) 764-1919

Saxby (Pretoria)

(012) 660-2355

Tokai (Cape Town)

(021) 7109950

Walmer (Port Elizabeth)

(041) 396-4800



Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Monique Vanek or Graeme Swinney
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email:, or