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Malaria major health issue in south east London

Malaria continues to be a major health issue in south east London, prompting calls for greater awareness from Public Health England (PHE).
 
A recent report found 4,311 confirmed cases of the infection between 2000 and 2011. Southwark had the highest number of cases (1,036) followed by Greenwich (696) and Lambeth (599).
 
Nine in ten (93%) of all imported malaria cases were acquired in Africa, with 90% of these from West Africa.
 
In 57% of cases, where the information was recorded, the reason for travel was visiting friends or relatives.
 
Eight out of ten people who contracted malaria were not taking anti-malarials during their travels.
 
Dr Rachel Heathcock, PHE director of health protection for south east London, said: “Malaria is a preventable disease, so it's concerning that we continue to see high numbers of cases in people from south east London who have travelled abroad.

“It is important for people to be aware of the risks from malaria, which is potentially life-threatening, and the benefits of taking anti-malarial medication, particularly black African people who experience the greatest burden of malaria.”
 
And Ralph Tanyi, coordinator of African Diaspora for Action Against Malaria (ADAAM) said confusion about immunity is a major reason why people do not seek advice prior to travelling, especially when visiting family and friends.
 
He said: “Often people living in the UK who were born in a country affected by malaria may incorrectly believe that they are 'immune' to the disease. The reality is that any resistance they may have once had decreases rapidly as soon as people come to live in the UK.
 
“Our advice is that people should not take any risks with their health and should speak to their doctor about medication to prevent malaria, no matter how short the trip.”