With Central Henan Province reporting a sharp rise in its number of malaria cases in the first half of this year, the national Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to release additional figures Wednesday, and the results are expected to be similarly worrying.
What is being reported as a national rise in the disease is being attributed to an increase in the exchange of labor across provincial borders and a rise in international travel, a disease control expert said Tuesday.
 
Henan reported 40 cases in the first half this year, already seven cases more than were seen all of last year in the province, the local health bureau reported.
National malaria statistics from last year show that nearly half of all reported cases were "imported." That’s an increase of 40 percentage points dating back to 2005, when just 10 percent of cases were "imported." Since China says it eliminated malaria by the late 1990s except in the provinces of Yunnan and Hainan, authorities refer to all cases reported outside those provinces as imported.
In all, the official number of malaria cases was 1,041 in 2009, with more than 400 cases imported. However, the total cases have plunged dramatically since 2005, when 3,747 people were infected, though just 296 of those were imported incidents, CDC data shows.
Zheng Canjun, an expert on malaria at the China CDC, told the Global Times that "the number of imported falciparum malaria cases is rising due to increased international travel and the import and export of labor."
In the capital of Henan, Zhengzhou No. 6 Hospital received 16 patients who developed imported malaria during the first half of this year. That figure includes a 37-year-old man who returned from Chad in Africa two weeks ago.

Dr. Sun Yan at the hospital told the Global Times that the man had a high fever and severe headache when he was sent to her hospital Saturday, and he also lapsed into a coma, though he started regaining consciousness this week.
"Due to the delay in his treatment at the beginning of the infection, he developed kidney failure and is still in danger," she said.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease, and symptoms generally include fever and headache. The malaria parasites are injected through the mosquito’s saliva, and they multiply within red blood cells. In severe cases, the disease can lead to hallucinations, coma and death.
In response to the resurgence of imported malaria cases, China in June laid out a plan to completely eliminate the disease by 2020.
Malaria is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including Africa and Southeast Asia.
China was plagued by malaria in the early 1950s, with 30 million deaths from the disease reported every year. But thanks to improved sanitation and treatment, malaria was almost eliminated just over a decade ago, the center said.
However, cases of malaria, especially falciparum malaria – the most deadly form of the disease – are rising with an increased export of Chinese labor abroad and more foreign workers coming to China.
"Provinces with bigger exported labor forces, including Henan, Guangdong, Anhui and Liaoning, tend to have more falciparum malaria cases," Tang Linhua, dean of the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases (NIPD), told the Global Times.
Most of the time the exported laborers from China live in shabby environments, he said. "About 80 percent of the workers might be exposed to mosquitoes with falciparum malaria."
"Those laborers bring back the disease when they return to their hometowns," he added.
The lack of strict physical examinations of inbound and outbound workers has also contributed to the rise in falciparum malaria cases, public health experts warn.
Chen Wei, a sports journalist who traveled to South Africa to cover this year’s World Cup, said no physical examinations are in place for travelers between China and Africa.
"The locals in South Africa told me there is no need to worry about malaria in the winter. I skipped the vaccine shot there. When I came back to China, there was also no physical examination in place," he said.
Tang, of the NIPD, said there is no need to panic about malaria or be overly concerned about malaria patients.

"Malaria is curable as long as it is discovered early and treated properly," he said.
"We should also focus on public education on the disease. Companies that export labor to Africa and Southeast Asia must give more education about falciparum malaria to their employees – provide them insurance or other protection if they can," he added.
 

SOURCE: Global Times
 
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