South Africa has targeted to eliminate malaria by the year 2018. Constant monitoring of malaria morbidity and mortality trends in affected subpopulations is therefore crucial in guiding and refining control interventions. Mutale Municipality in Limpopo Province is one of the areas with the highest risk of malaria in the country. This paper describes trends in malaria incidence, case fatality and household indoor residual spraying (IRS) coverage in Mutale Municipality, during the period 2005 to 2010.
A retrospective descriptive analysis was conducted on malaria data routinely collected through the Limpopo provincial malaria information system between July 2005 and June 2010. Five malaria seasons were defined. Annualized malaria incidence rates, case fatality rates (CFR) and IRS coverage rates were calculated.
Cumulatively, 4,663 malaria cases and 21 malaria deaths were reported in Mutale between July 2005 and June 2010. Investigation of likely origin of the malaria in 3,517 patients revealed that 6.6% were imported cases, mostly from neighbouring Zimbabwe (222/231). Malaria incidence rates fell from 13.6 cases per 1,000 person-years in the 2005--2006 season to 2.7 cases per 1,000 person-years in the 2009--2010 season. The mean malaria CFR was stable between 0.3 and 0.6% during the first four seasons, and increased sharply to 2.1% in the 2009--2010 season. The median age of the 21 malaria deaths was 34 years (range: 16 to 60 years). CFRs were 0% in children below 15 years and above 0.5% in patients more than 24 years old. Regular IRS achieved coverage above 80% in all five seasons.
Malaria control interventions implemented in Mutale significantly reduced the incidence of malaria in the population. In order to accurately monitor progress towards the elimination goal, the malaria control programme should strengthen the reporting and capturing of the data in the provincial malaria information system; all patients diagnosed with malaria should be investigated to determine the likely source of the malaria, and malaria related deaths should be audited to improve case detection and management. Furthermore, the country should strengthen cross border malaria control collaborations in order to minimize malaria importation.