Malaria in the Kruger National Park
Most types of mosquitos do not carry the malaria plasmodium and if you are bitten it does not mean that you will contract malaria. Anti-malaria prophylactics are recommended for visitors going to Kruger Park. The highest malaria risk period is between December and April, the last day of April marks the end of the rainy season. A 24/hour malaria hotline is available on +27 (0)83 900 8424 to give detailed explanation on risk and advice on precautionary measures. Visitors wishing to take prophylactics should consult a medical practitioner or recognized travel clinic. Certain products cause nausea, hallucinations or other negative side effects with certain people.
Often, particularly after periods of low rainfall, the malaria risk in the Kruger Park is very low. Many people decide not to take prophylactics and rather try to avoid getting bitten. The most vulnerable times are between dusk and dawn. People are advised to stay indoors during these periods, or cover exposed skin with light clothing or insect repellants. The ankles are the most critical area. Burning anti-mosquito coils and ensuring netted screens are kept closed are other preventative measures.
While malaria prophylactics are recommended, no prophylactic is foolproof and any person developing flu-like symptoms 7 to 20 days (or even longer) after being in malaria areas should be tested immediately for malaria, until the symptoms clear or an alternative diagnosis is made. It is important to advise medical practitioners that you have been in a malaria area to avoid incorrect diagnosis.
On the question of prophylactics, no drug is guaranteed 100% effective, but a combination of choroquin (taken weekly first one week before) and paludrin (daily - first 2 days before) appears to be the most recommended.
Mefloquin is a single alternative. Available from pharmacies in Johannesburg and en route to the park and at larger rest camps in the park. However as they should be taken a week in advance, if one chooses to use them, buying them in SA would be leaving it late, unless you will be spending time elsewhere in the country (most of which is malaria free).
Only mosquitoes of the anopheles genus carry the plasmodium, and then only if they have previously fed on an infected host. As the presence of people with the plasmodium in their bloodstream in the park is greatly reduced compared to past times, risk is once more reduced. One reason for these reductions is that the accommodation units in the parks are sprayed periodically throughout the year. Now that international campaigns see treatment taking place in adjacent countries such as Mozambique and Swaziland, malaria occurrence has been further reduced so don't panic!
Because precautions, such as mosquito nets and mosquito-repellent coils, are taken to ensure the safety of guests at the Kruger National Park, malaria does not pose a serious threat to its visitors. (The chances of contracting Malaria are even further reduced in the winter months – during May to November – when the number of mosquitoes drops significantly). However, for those who would prefer a destination that is totally Malaria free, the game reserves of Welgevonden and Madikwe offer the authenticity of a Big Five experience, with the convenience of a location that is just a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Set in the expanses of the Limpopo Province, these reserves offer an attractive alternative to the Kruger’s big game safaris, situated completely outside of the high-risk malaria zone