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Press Release

From Arican Eye News Service, through Africa News - Original


Heavy Rains Herald New Malaria Epidemic

BYLINE: Nomsa Shongwe

DATELINE: 13 December 1999

Nelspruit - The good rains of the past weeks may be good news for farmers but they are bad news for people living in rural Mpumalanga where malaria is reaching epidemic proportions, African Eye News Service (South Africa) reports.

Dr Dave Durrheim, consultant in communicable disease control at Mpumalanga's health department, said on Monday that over 19,000 cases of malaria had already been reported in South Africa this year, compared to last year's 14,465.

"If we get more rains we can expect an epidemic year," Durrheim says.

The figures are rising despite the recent introduction [of] new, more efficient anti-malaria drugs such as Fansider to combat the disease, he said.

Majority of the reported infections are in eastern Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal and Northern Province, because the mosquitoes which transmit malaria prefer warm, humid climates found in sub-tropical areas.

Mpumalanga along has reported 2,041 cases since July 1, while Northern Province has recorded nine deaths and more than 600 cases.

Infection rates have at least doubled and in some cases quadrupled every month since July, when recorded infection rates jumped from 58 in 1998 to 133 in 1999. Reported cases jumped from 47 in August 1998 to 209 in 1997, from 132 in September 1998 to 504 in 1999, from 160 in October 1998 to 542 in 1999 and from 180 in November 1998 to 653 in 1999.

The last time such high figures were reported was in 1932, when a malaria epidemic killed many people.

Durrheim says another reason why the figures are so high is that the disease is being brought south from Mozambique, which has not implemented malaria control for years.

"We are collaborating with Swaziland and Mozambique to establish an effective malaria control programme as part of the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative," he says.

Webmaster's Note:
  • The case rates are not clearly defined in this article. Does this mean 653 cases/100,000?
  • Mozambique formerly had a malaria control programme, especially on the Island of Zanzibar.
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