Aspects of the epidemiology of malaria in Natal Province, Republic of South Africa.
This study investigated aspects of the epidemiology of malaria in the Natal province of the Republic of South Africa. In this study the Collins English dictionary definition of epidemiology is used where it is defined as the branch of medical science concerned with the occurrence, transmission and control of an epidemic disease. Malaria has been a notifiable disease in the Republic of South Africa since 1958. Retrospective malaria case data from the Natal province as a whole was analyzed and the data from the KwaZulu and Natal areas of the province compared. Malaria cases were reported from 35 of the 65 magisterial districts in Natal province during the study period. In the Natal areas 91.5% of the cases were reported from eight districts and in the KwaZulu areas 96.4% of the cases came from three districts or as imports from Mozambique. The overall attack rate for both the Natal and KwaZulu areas using the total population figures for each area were very similar for the period 1986-1988 at 0.71 and 0.70 per 1000 head of population for the respective areas. The disease showed a distinct seasonal pattern in the KwaZulu areas with 86.9% of the cases being classified as indigenous and only 13.1% as imported. In the Natal areas, however, the seasonal pattern was not as marked and only 12.1% of the cases were recorded as indigenous and in excess of 82% as imported. Three species of the Anopheles gambiae complex were found to occur sympatrically in Natal province, namely: An. arabiensis, An. quadriannulatus and An. merus. Of these species An. arabiensis was found to occur at five localities during or after the notification of indigenous malaria cases from these areas. Due to the sympatric distribution of these species particular emphasis was placed on species identification and in particular the biting behaviour and control of An. arabiensis was investigated. The study found both morphological and behavioural differences between populations of An. arabiensis from those areas of the province with an intra-domiciliary residual insecticide vector control programme and those from the unsprayed areas. In the unsprayed areas the majority of the indoor resting An. arabiensis had fed on man whereas in the sprayed areas the majority of the indoor resting An. arabiensis were bovine fed. In the sprayed areas, however, the majority of the An. arabiensis caught leaving huts had fed on man. The percentage survival of bloodfed An. arabiensis caught leaving huts in the DDT sprayed area was in excess of 72%. The data strongly suggest that optimal control of An. arabiensis will not be achieved using the current control strategy of the annual application of intra-domiciliary DDT.