Migration complicates fight against malaria

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am


China may not be able to eradicate malaria by a commitment date of 2020 as more people flow into the country, experts said before National Malaria Day today.

The mainland has made progress in reducing the number of malaria cases - from 30 million in the early 1950s, to 24 million in the '70s, to 7,433 last year, according to the Ministry of Health's website.

It also said 11 people, all labourers aged from 20 to 50, died from the infectious disease in the first three months this year.

While the infection rate is low at 0.55 per 100,000 people, mortality is rising dramatically, the ministry-run Health Newspaper quoted the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as saying.

More people contracted the disease from overseas than on the mainland, the newspaper said.

'The jumping rate of malignant malaria is mainly due to an increasing number of labourers working abroad and medical institutions' improved capability to identify the patients,' Dr Zheng Canjun, a researcher at the centre, was quoted as saying.

Malaria, a parasitic disease spread by mosquitoes, infects about 150 million people worldwide every year, and kills about two million.

On the mainland, malaria mostly affects southern provinces and regions such as Yunnan, Hainan, Guizhou and Tibet, as well as central parts of the country such as Anhui, Henan, Jiangsu and Hubei. The areas worst hit by the disease are Hainan - the only tropical province - Yunnan and Tibet, both of which share long boundaries with Southeast Asian countries, experts said.

Yu Xinbing, a professor at Sun Yat-sen University's Zhongshan School of Medicine, estimated about 20,000 people catch malaria annually across the mainland, because 'many remote farmers haven't been diagnosed as having malaria or rural doctors failed to report the cases'.

He said patients with 'imported' cases of malaria were rising every year and 'should be the key issue considered by domestic doctors and authorities'.

'This tiny proportion of people, along with 'imported' malaria-causing mosquitoes through transport vehicles, may spark a massive outbreak of the disease on the mainland,' Yu said.

The central government had allocated two million yuan per centre to build malaria prevention and treatment clinics in 30 countries in Africa and nine Asian countries.

Dr Zhang Jun, director of the London-based Health Unlimited's office in Kunming, Yunnan, said China should consider long-term co-operation with other countries against malaria because of increased travel by mainlanders.

The mainland's remote areas, huge population and shortages of medical staff, especially in some northern provinces, was also keeping China from achieving the 'zeromalaria' goal, Yu said.

Disease control

After 30 million people were found infected with malaria in the 1950s, last year only this number died: 11