Malaria Infections, Deaths Plummet in First Six Months

In the first half of 2013, cases of malaria nationwide dropped 52 percent compared to the same period last year, and malaria deaths reduced 89 percent from 28 to just three during the same period, according to the National Center for Parasitology, Ento­mology and Malaria Control.

According to the National Ma­laria Center’s second-quarter survey, cases of malaria plummeted from 23,879 last year to 11,415 cases from January to June this year.

The number of malaria cases, confirmed by the Ministry of Health, fell from 80,644 in 2009 to 44,659 in 2010. Since then, infection rates have continued to drop sharply, which Steven Bjorge, a malaria scientist at the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said was largely due to its mosquito net campaign.

“It started in 2009, when we saw an immediate drop in the western provinces when we introduced mosquito bed-net coverage, and has continued on a steep downward trend,” Mr. Bjorge said.

About 44 percent of the Cambodian population lives in high malaria-risk areas, and about 22 percent lives near forestland where there is an acute risk of transmission.

Apart from handing out almost 3 million nets treated with long-lasting insecticide nationwide, community outreach workers have also improved diagnosing and initiating treatment for people who live more than 5 km away from a clinic where they can receive treatment, Mr. Bjorge said.

Perhaps the biggest remaining challenge for eradicating malaria is strains developing resistance to the drugs currently being used for treatment.

“We use careful therapeutic efficacy studies to test resistance, and most areas have yet to show signs. But even since the 1950s, the provinces bordering Thailand—Prey Veng, Battambang and Pur­sat—have manifested drug resistance, so in these areas we now use Malarone,” said Mr. Bjorge, referring to an expensive anti-malarial drug.

According to the Mekong Malaria Program, the provinces with the greatest risk of malaria are Battambang, Kompong Speu, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Pailin and Siem Reap, but Char Meng Chuor, director of the National Malaria Center said that due to the recent success in combating the disease, “the death toll from malaria is no longer a major concern for Cambodian people.”

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