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Drugs call as malaria increase revealed

Cases of malaria have increased by almost 30% in two years, leading to calls for Britons to get preventive medication if they go abroad.

Health Protection Agency (HPA) data show there were 1,761 cases last year - compared with 2009 when there were 1,495, and the 1,370 of 2008. The figures include Britons and visitors who became unwell while in the UK.

Some 85% of the 997 cases where details were available involved people who had been to places where malaria is common - on holiday or to visit family and friends - but not taken preventative drugs.

People who went to India and West Africa made up about half all UK malaria reports for the last 10 years, while four in 10 cases from 2010 were UK residents who had been to Nigeria or Ghana. Some 10% that year involved trips to India.

Just one mosquito bite can cause malaria and symptoms show within eight days, but the disease can be inactive in the body for a year.

GPs in the UK can prescribe five different anti-malaria medications for people going abroad.

HPA malaria expert, Professor Peter Chiodini, said: "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."

The HPA said people visiting family or friends are at greater risk of malaria than other travellers because they spend longer abroad and often stay in a local person's home.

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 travellers - you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Health Protection Agency - Malaria

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I must admit, I am seeing more people who say, 'I will get them when I am out there as they are cheaper'. I explain that in most cases they are probably not even malaria tablets
they are buying. I have worked in travel health for many years, both as a practice nurse and now a manager of a travel health clinic in Manchester and it still amazes me the people who think it won't happen to them, or they will use marmite and drink gin, etc. I do try my hardest to make sure they have all the information, but I cannot force someone to buy the malaria tablets because I want to save there life, I can only do my best to educate as many travellers as possible." Karen Barraclough, Manchester

"I am a nurse with experience of working in malarial areas and have seen the terrible effects. I am really tired of gung ho travellers who believe they are immortal. There are good reasons for medics to be involved at the prophylactic stage (different meds depending on the area, the patient, length and type of travel, type of malaria etc). Not taking appropriate (and the correct) prophylaxis has a knock-on effect on the inhabitants of a community; then there's the cost of treating careless travellers" - Leslie Hoover, London

"I agree wholeheartedly that we should promote malaria tabs. I think some people are put off by them not being a prescription drug. Should this be changed?" - Janet Meredith, Wales

"I would like to remind readers that the MP Simon Hughes lost his brother to malaria, tragically on his honeymoon. All for the sake of cutting corners and not taking anti-malarials. I don't care what Jim Moody thinks. Malaria drugs are not nearly as bad as some of the other drugs people have to take. Please remember that they can save your life" - Penny Hughes, London

"I find that showing patients the malaria map with red for danger on the websites for the country to which they are going usually gets a sharp intake of breath and a promise to cash in that malaria script whatever the price" - Kirsty Armstrong, UK

"If Jim Moody had had malaria, he wouldn't think twice about taking the best prophylaxis available, and be grateful that he had access to it" - Sally Turnbull, Oxford

"Each time I have travelled to India in the last 20 years, with a frequency of about once every other year, I have not taken any anti-malarial drugs. They have a reputation for messing up your liver, have a less than 100% efficacy, and are anyway the same ones that you would be treated with should you become infected. Tropical strength insect repellent is sufficient, as far as my experience goes" - Jim Moody, UK