Malaria claimed the life of a young professional hunter, Johann Lambrechts from Northam, on Wednesday.
Lambrechts died in a hospital in Rustenburg. His employer found him unconscious earlier this month at his house after he complained about flu-like symptoms for a few days and took him to the Thabazimbi Hospital, from where he was taken to the hospital in Rustenburg.
This is the first case of a death in the province of a person not from a known malaria area. Department of Health Spokesperson Thabiso Teffo earlier the week said no death had been reported yet.
Teffo was not yet aware of the Lambrecht’s demise when contacted on Wednesday, as occurred outside the province and also in a private hospital. He promised to follow up on the case and yesterday afternoon (Thursday) Polokwane Observer was called by Phillip Kruger, Director for Malaria in the department who confirmed the death.
Kruger said he followed up on the case and that Lampbrecht’s lived adjacent to an informal settlement where people from Vhembe and Mopani as well as neighbouring countries where malaria occurs historically, reside. He believes that mosquitoes or mosquito parasites could have been brought into the area in the luggage of a person or persons living there. He said the cases were widespread and isolated in the Seleka area and adjacent to the Lephalale River, on the way from Groblersbrug, where teams sprayed houses and alongside the river during the last three weeks.
Kruger said this week reported malaria cases decreased.
Kruger said between 3 000 and 7 000 malaria cases are reported annually in the province, but only a handful originates from the Waterberg, where around 50 cases have now been identified. “Of these, 12 cases were people who have not been in a malaria area. We followed up all the cases individually.”
Kruger informed that should treatment commence early, the prognosis is good, as malaria is an illness that can be treated. “If it has progressed too far, the prognosis is poor,” he said.
He advised people to rather be tested at a clinic or by their doctor when having flu-like symptoms as the test is cheap and results take around three minutes to show if the test is positive or not.
“It is not necessary for mass-hysteria,” he said, “as no malaria case has been reported originating from popular tourism places and the Waterberg is not a high risk area.”
Kruger explained that the female malaria mosquito ingests infected blood and after two weeks can transmit the illness to a human. It then can stay in the body for two weeks, going to the liver of a person, before symptoms show. The parasite, when in the blood, attacks the red blood cells, which then coagulates and forms a glue-like substance which attaches to small capillaries and organs and damages it. “If a person is treated within two to three days of being diagnosed when showing symptoms, he will get better, but the longer it takes to be diagnosed or treated, the more damage can be caused to organs, infections can develop and a person can die after two to three weeks,” Kruger said.
Story: Nelie Erasmus