Mkhize addresses SADC Malaria Day Webinar

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the fight against malaria has not been spared from disruptions to the public health system brought on by COVID-19.

Mkhize, having recently been appointed as the chairperson of the SADC Elimination 8 Ministers of Health Council, was addressing a webinar on Friday to commemorate SADC Malaria Day.
The E8 is a coalition of eight countries working across national borders to eliminate malaria in southern Africa by 2030.

Mkhize said that malaria symptoms may mimic COVID-19 symptoms, and that it is therefore imperative that when one experiences flu-like symptoms, they seek medical attention as soon as possible.

“It is critical that patients take note of their signs and symptoms and give detailed travel histories and histories of contacts with other people with flu-like symptoms,” he said.

“Whilst we encourage closing windows at night and the use of fans or air-conditioning for malaria, the opposite is encouraged for COVID-19: that is, to ensure the elimination of COVID-19 particles in the air, we encourage opening windows to allow drafts of fresh air in closed spaces and we totally discourage the use of fans or air-conditioners in enclosed spaces.

The new normal demands that we apply our minds and adjust to the presence of COVID-19, which is wreaking havoc in our communities and the economy in ways that malaria never has. Let us therefore be mindful and take all necessary precautions as we battle with both pandemics and balance the mitigation measures accordingly.”

According to the 2019 World Malaria Report, released by the WHO, malaria cases decreased globally from an estimated 251 million in 2010 to 228 million in 2018.
In the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region, the WHO estimates that three-quarters of the population is at risk of contracting malaria, with 35 million of these being children under five years of age and approximately 8.5 million being pregnant women.

In South Africa, malaria cases have decreased by 78% from 64,622 cases in the year 2000 compared to 13,833 cases in the year 2019, and malaria deaths have also decreased by 82%, from 459 to 79 deaths between 2000 and 2019.

“Our message to communities that are affected by malaria and travelers to malaria endemic areas is to take the necessary precautions to prevent contracting the disease and seeking treatment as early as possible when they experience signs and symptoms. Malaria is a preventable and curable disease if detected early and treatment is started promptly,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize emphasized the following:

  • If not diagnosed and treated within 24 hours, malaria can progress to severe illness and death.
  • Malaria symptoms appear within 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bite.
  • These symptoms include: fever, headache, chills and vomiting.
  • Travelers from non-endemic areas to malaria endemic areas and countries are vulnerable to the disease and need to take preventative measures.
  • Individuals are therefore advised to take personal protection methods when visiting malaria endemic areas within and outside South Africa.