Malaria still poses challenges for the five GMS countries: WHO

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The intensity of malaria transmission in Laos varies greatly across different ecological zones with the rate of transmission being lower in the northern provinces, according to the World Health Organisation.

But the rate of transmission is higher in the forested areas of southern Laos, especially the provinces of Champassak, Xekong, Attapeu, Saravan and Savannakhet, where many people are engaged in forest-related occupations

Increased malaria prevention and control measures through the distribution of long lasting insecticide-treated nets and improved case detection, diagnosis and treatment in remote, hard to reach areas through malaria posts and community facilities have dramatically reduced the malaria incidence in these provinces.

When travelling to the southern provinces, do take preventive measures to protect against mosquito bites by sleeping under a bednet, using insect repellent and wearing light long-sleeved clothes.

“If you develop symptoms such as fever, headache, chills and sweating between 10 to 15 days after travelling to these provinces, you should see a and get tested for malaria,” WHO Director of the Global Malaria Programme Dr Pedro Alonso said.

“WHO will continue to provide support to the Centre of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology under the Ministry of Health on malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and in addressing the concerns of antimalarial drug resistance in Laos as we work towards elimination of P. falciparum malaria by 2025.”

In Vietnam, a recent letter published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported on the presence of a drug-resistant lineage (strain) of malaria parasites in the south, saying it is responsible for “alarming rates of failure” of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, a first-line antimalarial medicine.

The lineage, first identified in Cambodia in 2008, has now become the dominant lineage in some parts of this region, according to WHO.

Following the publication of this letter, several news organisations reported on the rapid spread of a “dangerous” malaria parasite that “cannot be killed with the main anti-malaria drugs” – a parasite they describe as “super malaria”.

Just to summarise the key points from the article, the problem of multidrug resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), including in Vietnam, has been well known to WHO for a number of years.

Artemisinin resistance was first detected in the GMS Region in 2008. However, in recent years, there has been a major decline in the rate of malaria cases and deaths.

In May 2015, GMS Ministers of Health adopted the “WHO Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion 2015-2030” considering the urgent action against drug resistant malaria aiming for the elimination of P. falciparum malaria from the subregion by 2025 and all species of human malaria by 2030.

Malaria case incidence in GMS countries fell by 54 percent and death rates fell by 84 percent between 2012 and 2015.

There were approximately 200 malaria deaths and less than 300,000 cases reported in the five GMS countries in 2016, WHO reported.

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