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UK cases of deadliest malaria rising

4th July 2008

Official figures from the Health Protection Agency have shown a rise in the number of cases of the most dangerous type of malaria being bought back to the UK by people returning from trips abroad.

Mosquito

Between 2002 and 2006, the HPA identified 6,753 cases of falciparum malaria diagnosed in the country, a 30% increase over the past 15 years.

Many of the cases involved people coming back to the UK after visiting family and friends in countries such as Nigeria or Ghana in west Africa.

In a study reported in the British Medical Journal, the HPA looked at the origins of 39,300 cases of malaria in this country from 1987 to 2006.

Of these, 20,488 were in UK residents returning from trips rather than travellers of other countries falling ill while in Britain. The majority were the less dangerous form but 25,000 of the 39,300 cases were caused by the plasmodium falciparum parasite.

Figures show during that period there were 183 deaths as a result.

Travel to malarial areas has increased significantly in that time yet only two-fifths of UK travellers take prophylaxis drugs before or during their trip to try to prevent contracting the disease.

Professor Peter Chiodini, head of the HPA’s Malaria Reference Laboratory, said: “There is a prevailing myth that travellers who were born in a malaria-endemic country such as Africa have some 'natural' immunity to malaria and this is simply not the case.

“Like all other people who go to Africa and Asia they need to make sure they take their anti-malaria drugs.”

 

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