London: There has been a doubling of cases of malaria infections detected in British Asians returning to the UK after visiting Pakistan, according to latest figures by health officials.
New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on World Malaria Day on Wednesday show that despite a five percent decrease in malaria infections reported in 2011 (1,677) compared to 2010 (1,761), cases among travellers returning from the Indian-subcontinent increased by 22 per cent, from 274 cases in 2010 to 334 in 2011.
The increase in cases from the Indian-subcontinent in 2011 is largely due to a doubling of cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria acquired in Pakistan, the HPA said.
The most common type of malaria reported in the UK is the potentially fatal falciparum malaria, which is usually acquired in West Africa.
This type of malaria continues to account for the majority of cases (1,149) reported in the UK, but in 2011, a quarter of cases (416) were caused by vivax malaria, which is more commonly acquired in India and Pakistan.
In 2011, eight deaths from malaria were reported, six from falciparum malaria acquired in Africa and two from vivax malaria acquired in India.
"The group who continue to be at highest risk of contracting malaria are those visiting friends and relatives. In 2011, where reason for travel was known, eighty per cent (610/765) of cases, who were travellers from the UK, were visiting friends and relatives in their own or family`s country of origin", the HPA said in a release.
Professor Peter Chiodini, head of the HPA`s Malaria Reference Laboratory, said: "Today is World Malaria Day which provides a timely reminder to anyone who is travelling to a country where malaria is present to take travel advice and appropriate malaria medication to protect themselves.
"Anyone who has been to a malaria risk area anywhere in the world should seek urgent medical attention if they become unwell after their return to the UK."