Many South Africans regard malaria as a problem outside our boarders, however, malaria cases have become more prevalent in SA.

South Africa has seen an alarming rise in malaria cases over the last few months. This spike has been attributed primarily to unseasonably high rainfall and levels of humidity.

This means it is increasingly important to educate ourselves about the disease.

‘Goodbye Malaria’, an initiative started by African entrepreneurs to solve the problem of malaria, shares five facts about malaria that you probably didn’t know:

1. Malaria is an Italian word

The word “malaria” is derived from the Medieval Italian word “mala aria”, meaning “bad air”.

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Before discovering that mosquitoes were the responsible parasite for the disease, people believed that the cause of the illness was due to bad or foul air itself – usually in and around swamps or marshes. It was only in the late 1880s that Ronald Ross discovered that it was the mosquito that transmitted the disease.

2. She’s female

Only certain species of mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus – and only females of those species – can transmit malaria. Male mosquitoes are quite timid and stick to feeding on vegetation.

Malaria is caused by a one-celled parasite called a Plasmodium. Female Anopheles mosquitoes pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite to obtain blood needed to nurture their eggs making them the primary transmitter of the disease.

Related: Malaria in South Africa: the only travel bug you shouldn’t catch

3. She’s silent

The presence of a female Anopheles mosquito, typically known as ‘The Silent Killer’, often goes unnoticed. She won’t buzz around your head – she’s completely silent.

She is armed with sensory abilities that allow her to find and drink human blood – in this case, go undetected. Female mosquitos feed primarily between dusk and dawn.

4.  Alcohol won’t save you

Rather than alcohol being a mosquito repellent, it in fact has the opposite effect.

In 2010, scientists at the University of Emory, Atlanta USA, conducted an experiment that used body odour (emitted from the skin and breath) to measure human attractiveness to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The experiment found that the body odour of those who had consumed beer increased the activity of mosquitoes and was a real health risk factor. One would need to drink gallons of alcohol before any repellent properties were evident.

5.    Malaria is a complex parasitic disease

It is not caused by a single biological entity. The disease is the result of a complex interplay among three biological systems each with its own complex lifecycle, environment, habits and pathogenesis profiles.  

Sources: Goodbye Malaria

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.