At least 39 Limpopo residents have died and 1 900 others have been infected with malaria in the past two months because of bureaucratic bungling. The outbreak, with infection rates four times higher than normal, is largely due to the government's failure to launch annual DDT spraying and prevention programmes before the advent of the summer rains. Last year, when preventive programmes were launched in time, not a single death was reported in the region. Limpopo health spokesperson Phuti Seloba conceded on Thursday that the tendering process for companies to spray homes and pools of water with mosquito poison like DDT had taken longer than expected this year. The cases were very high this year because we launched the prevention methods later than usual, he admitted. Seloba said about 1 500 people were hospitalised with malaria in October alone, but admissions dropped to 400 cases last month once preventive measures began. The worst affected areas are Thohoyandou, Giyani and Phalaborwa in the Bohlabelo, Mopani and Vhembe districts. About 40 teams of 830 people are currently conducting an intensive malaria control programme, which includes spraying homes and pools of standing water with poison to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. The best possible malaria treatment is also being made available at clinics and health centres to ensure prompt and effective treatment of the disease, Seloba added. The measures might not, however, protect the government from damages claims by victims. Charlotte McClain, of the SA Human Rights Commission, said on Thursday the government had both a constitutional and legal obligation to take protective measures. None of the victims, most of whom are impoverished, functionally illiterate villagers, have announced plans to sue. Residents and visitors to Limpopo are meanwhile advised to use anti-malaria sprays and lotions and to burn anti-mosquito coils and drape mosquito nets over their beds. Those visiting high-risk areas are advised to take anti-malaria drugs, which are available at pharmacies. Seloba said the disease was treatable if detected early but deadly if left too late. (Source: The Star, 5 December 2003).