Updated: Apr 27
Safari clients and guides often ask me about whether malaria is something to really be concerned about? Two points:
Malaria is preventable and absolutely should not get in the way of you enjoying your safari. Come out, have a plan [some ideas below] and have the wilderness experience of a life time.
If contracted and it is not managed early, malaria could result in death. Generally speaking people coming on a safari are more cautious than those working, or living in the areas, and thus the ratio of visitors to malaria cases is extremely low.
Often it is difficult to shift through what is truth and what is fiction. What follows is an overview of its causes, prevention ideas and so forth. The intention of the information is to empower you in your decision making and give you the peace of mind to comfortably focus on enjoying the wonderful experience which you are about to embark on.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Of the five parasite species that cause malaria in humans, the two species posing the greatest threat are P. falciparum and P. vivax. All these species bite between dusk and dawn.
The anopheles mosquito [the “malaria vector”] carries the malaria parasite Plasmodium temporary in its stomach. After 7 – 20 days the young plasmodia migrate to the saliva glands of the mosquito and are injected along with the saliva into the human who is the final host.
Following somewhere between 5 to 16 days of dormancy in the human liver, the plasmodia become active and begin to attack and destroy the red blood cells of the human host.
Malaria early symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, diarrhea and vomiting.
Symptoms do not necessarily present at the same time. Initially these might be mild and are therefore ignored or difficult to diagnose. Early detection and treatment usually prevent serve illness or death, are critical to a successful recovery. Should you have any flu-like symptoms following time within a malaria area, visit your local clinic and let them take blood tests for the parasite.
In 2009, 100% due to my own complacency, I found myself in SERIOUS TROUBLE with P. falciparum malaria, double pneumonia and other complications. For 6 days the ICU team, our first class Doctor Wayne Hinrichs and world class specialist physician Doctor Robert Khonje worked day and night to keep me alive. Had it not been for their incredible work, I could not share this story with you. Based on the severity of my case, it took near 6 months to recover.
According to the World Health Organizations figures, the five top killers in Africa remain malaria, HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhoeal diseases and strokes. In 2015 Africa was home to 90% of the global malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa carries the highest incidence.
Has it influenced my doing what love? It definitely did not stop me doing what I love, if anything it further cemented my passion.
What it has done though, is let me take a more serious look at particularly prevention and understanding some of the treatments. My work takes place in these areas and I manage my risk differently.
Again I observe that it is mostly people who live and work in these areas who contract malaria - Due to our ongoing exposure we don’t take prophylactic medication [Very importantly I am NOT suggesting this for visitors and clients].
● sleep under a good net, put on an insect repellent with a higher DEET content and in areas with a very high risk I wear lightweight breathable long-sleeved shirts and pants at night.
● carry a course of Coartem [artemisinin-based combination for treating uncomplicated malaria] and two malaria test kits. If I display symptoms, I do not hesitate to test and take action.
I always strongly suggest that clients consult their medical practitioner to discuss specific requirements for the region they are visiting [including inoculations, prophylaxis, etc.]. This consultation should ideally occur 8 week’s prior departure for your safari. Assuming her/ his approval, malaria prophylactic medication is an important consideration.
To this point:
● Malanil [South African name] or what is known as Malarone elsewhere in the world, has the least side effects. Mozitec and Malateq, the recently introduced South African generic versions of Malanil are a third of the price. Remember that they must be taken prior entering the area.
● Remember, even if taking a prophylactic, that it is important to promptly visit your Doctor or clinic, should any of the typical symptoms present themselves.
Outside of medication, in areas with a malaria risk rating you should:
● Sleep under a quality insecticide treated nets such as those made by First Ascent.
● Apply a DEET product to your skin with ideally a DEET concentration of between 20 – 50% - These products disorientate mosquitoes for between 5 – 8 hours. In South Africa consider either Peaceful Sleep or Tabard. No longer available in South Africa is an excellent Australian product called Bushmans and in Europe consider the Lifesystems product – Both have a higher DEET content than that available over here.
● Consider washing your clothing with a quality insecticide such as Vital Protection.
Food for thought: Bangles and Citronella
In a document released by a globally respected travel clinic it states how laboratory studies evidenced that the wristbands which are so readily sold in most outdoor shops, and some chemists, are proven to give very little protection and that citronella products gave protection for 20 minutes before reapplication has to take place.
To this point, I personally know people who applied this methodology and contracted malaria - The one individual had a bangle on each arm and a stretch necklace. Basically, you are taking a chance with something you should not.
We Look Forward To Seeing You Out Here
Malaria is preventable and absolutely should not get in the way of enjoying your safari. Come out, have a precautionary plan and have the wilderness experience of a life time. We are looking forward to spending time with you, sharing what we know and creating unique experiences that will result in your already planning your next safari on your journey home.
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