UK malaria cases up due to increased travel

Cases of potentially fatal malaria are on the increase in the UK due to a huge rise in the numbers of residents travelling to malaria endemic areas, UK research suggests.

Researchers from the Health Protection Agency studied data from the Malaria Reference Laboratory, involving 39,300 confirmed cases of malaria.

They found that in 1987-1991 there were 5,120 reported case of faliciparum malaria, but this increased to 6,753 in 2002-2006.

At the same time the number of UK visitors travelling to malaria endemic areas increased from 593,000 visits in 1987 to 2.6 million visits in 2004.

A large proportion of these visitors were from ethnic minorities travelling to see friends and relatives in West Africa.

The researchers say that the findings highlight that health messages are not getting through to ethnic minority groups.

‘Targeting messages tailored to these groups is essential in primary care and public health and this would have a substantial impact on UK malaria,' they say.

‘Increasing the use of effective anti-malarial prophylactic drugs by travellers visiting sub-Saharan Africa should also be a priority,' the researchers concluded.

BMJ research

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