Cholera-stricken KwaZulu-Natal is bracing itself to tackle another plague, malaria, which claimed 342 lives last year.
At least six people have died of malaria since the beginning of the year, with 1 403 cases reported in the north of the
Cholera had already killed 85 people and, on Friday, 1 097 new cases were reported, the highest number in a single day since the epidemic broke out
in August. This week, the provincial health minister, Zweli Mkhize, unfroze 1 200
medical posts to help fight the three-pronged assault of cholera, malaria and AIDS.
A KwaZulu-Natal Health Department spokesman, Dave McGlew, said although the new posts were a huge boost, the province was still about 10 000 posts
short of its full staff of 59 000. Malaria and cholera were not the only reasons why the posts were unfrozen
but they have certainly increased the pressure to do so, he said. He added that, with the arrival of the malaria season, the department was
keeping a close watch on the northern parts of the province.
Although rainfall around the end of 2000 was less than in 1999, when floods hit the province, a lot of rain and a mild winter encouraged
mosquitoes to breed. We are expecting a better year, with a lower number of reported cases
than last year, he said. There were 37 934 cases of malaria last year, but less than 1% of those
infected died. One has to get perspective. Driving in a car to a malaria area probably
carries a higher risk of death than the disease, he said. Brian Sharp, director of the malaria research programme at the Medical Research
Council, said he expected fewer malaria cases than last year.
(Source: Sunday Times, 04/02 01)