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Public Health England Reminds Travellers About The Risks Of Malaria

PHE publishes latest malaria figures for World Malaria Day

Published on 25 April 2014

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by Public Health England


London, England

New figures from Public Health England (PHE) have been published today (25 April 2014) for World Malaria Day, which show an overall increase of 9% in imported malaria infections reported in the UK in 2013 (1,501) compared with 2012 (1,378).

Malaria can be a life threatening disease, which is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. 79% of malaria cases in 2013 (compared with 73% in 2012) were caused by the more severe Plasmodium falciparum. This high proportion of falciparum malaria reflects the fact that most malaria imported to the UK is acquired in Africa. After a rise in recent years the proportion due to vivax malaria has continued to fall back, with 179 cases reported in 2013, compared to 271 in 2012 and 416 in 2011. The highest proportion of cases, as in previous years, is in travellers who are non UK-born who have visited family in their country of origin.

Dr Jane Jones, head of the PHE’s Travel and Migrant Health Section, said:

"The proportion of cases who have not taken appropriate antimalarials remains high. This implies that health messages about the importance of antimalarial prophylaxis are still not reaching groups who are at particular risk of acquiring malaria, predominantly those who are visiting family in their country of origin and particularly those of Black African ethnicity. It’s important to stress that any partial protection people may have gained from being brought up in a country where malaria is common is quickly lost when living in the UK."

Professor Peter Chiodini, head of the PHE’s Malaria Reference Laboratory, said:

"World Malaria Day provides a timely reminder to all travellers going to a country where malaria is present to seek pre-travel advice about the appropriate measures to take to protect themselves, including preventive medicines. If you have any symptoms (usually flu-like or a fever), either while you are away or for up to a year after you return home, you must seek urgent medical help; malaria may cause severe complications and can be fatal."

Dr Dipti Patel, Joint Director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), said:

"Travellers to countries where malaria is present should seek advice from their general practice, a specialist travel clinic or pharmacy about malaria prevention at least 6 to 8 weeks before they travel, but even if travelling at short notice it is still possible to get protected. Travellers are also reminded to avoid mosquito bites by using bed nets, cover-up clothing and insect repellents, particularly for children. Information on insect bite avoidance and malaria prevention for specific countries is available on the NaTHNaC website."

Malaria, an almost completely preventable but potentially fatal disease, remains an important issue for UK travellers. There is continuing evidence that those of African or Asian ethnicity who are non-UK born and going to visit family in their country of origin are at increased risk of malaria. PHE recommends that those providing advice should engage with these population groups wherever possible, including using potential opportunities to talk about future travel plans outside a specific travel health consultation, such as during new patient checks or childhood immunisation appointments.

For more information about this press release including Editor's Notes and contact details visit https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-health-england-reminds-travellers-about-the-risks-of-malaria



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Posted 2014-04-25 10:57:00