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Malaria remains significant issue for UK travellers

New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that there were 1,548 cases of malaria reported among UK travellers in 2007. Five of these cases were fatal.

The majority cases were due to the potentially fatal Plasmodium falciparum, which is a major international health risk and kills more than a million people a year in Africa.

Eighty-three percent of patients had not taken malaria prophylaxis and a high proportion of the remainder had taken prophylaxis not recommended for their travel destination.
Professor Peter Chiodini, who heads up HPA's Malaria Reference Laboratory, said: "It seems likely that travellers visiting friends and relatives are either not seeking or unable to access good medical advice on preventing malaria before they travel, or they don't perceive their risk to be as great as the holidaying public.

"The common misconception that people born in malaria-affected countries but now living in the UK continue to have a natural immunity to malaria is very dangerous."

"It is essential that travellers to destinations where malaria is present ensure they plan ahead by seeking pretravel medical advice on which protective drugs and other measures are appropriate for their destination. A course of such drugs should be started prior to travel and be continued for the whole period advised after returning to the UK.

"Equally as important as protective drugs, are measures to prevent mosquito bites which can include applying insect repellent, wearing cover-up clothing and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net.

"Without taking the appropriate protective drugs and using other preventative measures to prevent mosquito bites, UK travellers are exposing themselves to a killer disease that is almost completely preventable."