Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Scientists were stepping up their surveillance of SA’s malaria-control programme as the country confronts a surge in cases, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases disclosed on Tuesday.

The uptick not only poses a health risk but also means SA is likely to miss its target of eliminating malaria by 2018.

The 2017 malaria season, which peaked in May, was worse than the year before, as high rainfall, humidity and ambient temperature created the perfect conditions for malaria transmission.

This year’s unusually mild winter allowed mosquitos and parasites to continue to breed and led to an early start to the current season, which began in August.

While the several thousand confirmed cases in 2017 were far fewer than the 67,000 cases reported in the malaria epidemic of 2000, it is a significant increase on 2016. The rise is causing concern among officials, who are stepping up their scrutiny of SA’s malaria control programme.

"We can never attribute outbreaks to just [the] weather and always need to check the quality of any spraying programme, the presence of insecticide resistance and any change to the malaria vectors," said institute deputy director Lucille Blumberg. There was no evidence of drug resistance, she said.

KwaZulu-Natal was moving towards elimination of malaria, she said, but the targets would need to be reset for Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The rise in the number of cases had been particularly severe in Limpopo and in the Bushbuckridge area in Mpumalanga.

There had been a modest increase in malaria cases in and around the Kruger National Park, which was reviewing its malaria-control programmes, Blumberg said. "The risks in Kruger and surrounding areas remain relatively low, so there is no reason not to visit."

Please sign in or register to comment.