Malaria is prevalent primarily in the north of the country and mainly in summer, that is, during the rainy season. It can be a serious and fatal disease if not treated properly. It is transmitted to people through the bite of a mosquito, usually after dark. Tourists can help reduce the risk of malaria by using personal protection measures and prophylactics.
It is imperative that visitors to the area north of Windhoek take adequate precautions, whether camping under the stars or sleeping under a roof.
To reduce the risk of mosquito bites, we recommend the following precautions:
- Sleep under a mosquito net at night, especially between 20:00 and 06:00 hours. Nets treated with insecticides that are harmless to humans will further increase protection.
- If possible, avoid going outside between dusk and dawn.
- Wear long sleeves and long trousers. Avoid wearing dark colours, which attract mosquitoes.
- Burn coils and pellets containing the insect repellent pyrethrum.
- Apply mosquito repellents to exposed skin and clothing. Repellents containing diethyl toluamide (deet) or dimethyl phthalate are the best.
- The use of insecticide sprays is effective to prevent entry of mosquitoes into rooms if doors and windows are not screened.
- It’s better still to sleep in rooms of which the windows and doors are screened with mosquito netting.
- If not, keep all the windows and doors closed.
Prophylactics: Drugs that prevent malaria should be used in addition to the personal protection measures mentioned above.
Prophylactics should be taken at least 24 to 48 hours before visiting the malaria-prone areas, and treatment should be continued for five to seven days after leaving the area.
People with drug allergies, chronic illnesses or taking other drugs or vaccines are advised to consult their doctor before starting prophylactics. Should any of the symptoms of malaria, such as
- rigours (shaking),
- and/or vomiting and
- malaise be experienced,
it is extremely important to report to the nearest health facility as soon as possible for proper diagnosis (a blood test) and prompt treatment.
If any flu-like symptoms are experienced on the way home, seek immediate medical attention and inform your doctor that you have recently visited a malaria-prone area.