'Imported' malaria overtakes indigenous cases
Health officials have warned that although malaria is on the brink of
being eliminated in Sri Lanka, there could be a re-emergence of the
disease due to the rise in the number of 'imported' cases. "We had 70
'imported' cases of malaria as against 23 indigenous cases last year.
The imported cases included a large number of refugees who arrived from
Benin in West Africa; they were tested at the airport and 50 were found
to be positive. The rest were from India and Pakistan," Anti Malaria
Campaign (AMC) sources told the Sunday Observer.
They said due to sustained awareness programs by the AMC to eradicate
the disease, the parasite reservoir in the island was now absent. "The
risk is that the malaria vector is still abundant during long drought
periods especially in the North Central Province in areas such as
Hambantota, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Mullaitivu and Mannar. If someone
brings the parasite with them after visiting a malaria-prone countries
such as African countries and India, there is a chance for another
outbreak of the disease," they warned.They said anyone including those
in peace keeping missions to such countries should take proper
precautions as they could be exposed to the parasite. "We now have a
good mechanism to prevent the disease re-entering the country.
We deploy our officers at airports and other points of entry to the
country to take blood samples of anyone entering the country from
malaria-prone areas, once these travellers inform us of their arrival
prior to their return.
The results of the blood tests are given to them within 15 minutes,
before they leave the airport. If they test positive, we start them on
treatment immediately. Health directors of the Forces support us in this
campaign, which has already shown encouraging results, with 14 cases
being detected at airports so far this year," they said.
AMC sources said travellers to malaria-prone countries had been
requested to take prophylactic drugs to prevent catching the disease
prior to their departure, and also to take the tablets with them when
"The drugs are free and available at our head office at Narahenpita.
Different drugs are given for different countries. Also, when they
return , if they develop high fever with shivering fits and severe
headaches, they should immediately inform the nearest MOH doctor to test
them for malaria," they said.