Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Plasmodium species parasite. The parasite enters the human through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Plasmodium falciparum is the most prevalent species in South Africa, and this species can cause serious illness if untreated.
While most cases are imported from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, areas like the Umkhanyakude district and parts of the Kruger national park within South Africa are also considered high risk, especially in the summer months.
Once the malaria parasite has entered the body, it travels to the liver where the parasite matures. Once matured in the liver, the parasites enter and infect the red blood cells. The parasite multiplies, and within 48-72 hours, these parasites burst through the red blood cells and cause symptoms that mimic the flu such as lethargy, fever, chills and vomiting.
Malaria, if left untreated can be life-threatening causing complications such as pulmonary oedema, organ failure, anaemia and cerebral malaria (which is fatal).
Uncomplicated malaria can be easily treated by your GP with oral Coartem. In complicated cases and where oral treatment cannot be tolerated intravenous antimalarials are needed. Uncommonly, a patient may become infected with an unusual species of Plasmodium. Fortunately, the other species cause a milder form of illness however if not treated relapse is common and chronic disease may develop.
Dr Mogambery has the expertise in treating infectious diseases, having managed cases ranging from severe malaria requiring ICU support and dialysis, to more straightforward cases of malaria with mild symptoms and minimal blood test abnormalities.
As always, prevention is better than cure. Seek medical guidance on malaria prophylaxis before travelling to a malaria endemic area.
Check if you are travelling to a malaria endemic country using this link,
Malaria and the traveler