Three cases of malaria reported in Durban

15 Feb 2009
Sunday Tribune
Durban health officials were called to a Mount Edgecombe residential estate this week after a case of malaria was reported. Two other cases were reported in other parts of the city.

The three people who contracted the parasitic disease had not travelled to any malaria stricken areas.

After the first report health officials were called to the estate, where the area was sprayed. Officials took mosquito and larvae samples and advised residents on how to minimise the risks of bites.

Head of the Infectious Disease Department at the Nelson Mandela Medical School, Prof Yunus Moosa, said it was surprising that so many people had been infected in such a short time, given that none had travelled to malaria hot spots recently, and the cases were in different parts of the city.

The patients, who have since been released from hospital, were from Mount Edgecombe, Sea Cow Lake and Umhlanga and apparently had no contact with each other.

Dr Ayo Olowolagba, head of the Communicable Disease Control Department at the eThekwini Municipality Health Unit, said several malaria cases had been reported in the Durban area, but were usually travel-related.

He said people travelled by taxi to northern KwaZulu-Natal where the disease was endemic, especially during the rainy season.

"Mosquitoes have been known to 'hitch a ride' in cars, taxis or even luggage and end up infecting people. But this is not common,"? said Olowolagba.

Another possibility is that the patients may have been suffering from a dormant form of malaria known as ovale vivax.

"This type of malaria can be dormant in the liver for a year or longer and require primiquine treatment,"? said Moosa.

Falciparum malaria, endemic to KwaZulu-Natal, is the most dangerous type and a patient infected could die within 24 hours after suffering flu symptoms.

Retired MRC malaria specialist Barry Bredenkamp said although three cases in a short period was unusual, it was highly unlikely that Durban was facing a malaria outbreak.

He said it was only the female Anopheles mosquito that infected people. There were no male Anopholes in Durban and they therefore could not reproduce.

The most common mosquito found in Durban is the Aedes aegypti, which is not malarial.