According to figures released on World Malaria Day by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), cases of malaria have increased by 30% in the last two years and expats are being reminded of the need to seek advice on malaria before traveling and moving overseas.
The report, which was released by the HPA to mark World Malaria Day, reveals that the number of reported cases of malaria infection rose from 1370 in 2008, to 1761 in 2010 in the United Kingdom alone. 50% of those UK residents affected had been traveling or living in West Africa or South Asia, with 40% of the cases reported in 2010 occurring in people who had been visiting Nigeria or Ghana, and 11% in visitors or expats in India.
Of the 997 patients questioned on their use of antimalarial medication, only 15% had taken malaria prophylaxis. Interestingly, of those who failed to take appropriate precautions, almost 50% of the cases involved people who were visiting expatriate friends and family in their host country. The HPA accredited this to an unwillingness or inability to adequately research the risks; poor advice; or a false perception that a familiar destination is somehow less risky because they have friends of family already living there.
Professor Peter Chiodini, from the HPA’s malaria reference laboratory, commented on the risks that expats and travelers are taking: “Even people living in Britain visiting the country in which they were born or grew up, or have previously visited, are not immune from malaria and should take precautions.”
Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA’s travel and migrant health section, said: “Malaria is a potentially deadly disease but is almost completely preventable.
“Anyone who is planning to travel to a tropical destination should always seek advice from their GP or travel health clinic before their trip.
“It is a myth that people who have had malaria will not get it again.
“Our advice is the same for all travelers – you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there were 243 million cases of malaria in 2008 and almost a million deaths worldwide.