China faces threat of imported malaria cases

China is seeing an increasing number of cross-border travellers, meaning that the risk of detecting imported malaria cases remains, said an expert.



September 19, 2022

BEIJING  – China is still at risk of seeing domestic malaria outbreaks triggered by imported cases, a health expert said on Friday.

The World Health Organization declared China malaria-free in June of last year and hailed it as a remarkable achievement, said Zhou Xiaonong, director of the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, he said China still reported around 3,000 imported infections annually before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in late 2019.

In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million malaria cases in 85 malaria-endemic countries across the globe, up by 6 percent from 2019. Malaria deaths also increased by 12 percent during the same period to an estimated 627,000 in 2020, according to data from the WHO.

“China is having frequent communication with African and Southeastern Asian countries and seeing an increasing number of cross-border travelers, meaning that the risk of detecting imported malaria cases remains,” he said.

In addition, breeding habitats for major malaria-vectors, especially mosquitoes, have not been eliminated in China. Zhou said that mosquitoes cannot be wiped out with available technologies and their existence could amplify the risk of malaria spreading widely.

To resolve the potential hazards, he said that China has released new rules to prevent imported malaria cases from sparking domestic transmission of the disease, highlighting early precaution and emergency response for imported cases.

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