The number of people infected with malaria increased by 18 percent in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period last year, while the number of those who died from the disease fell by 25 percent over the same period, health officials said yesterday.
Between January and July, the number of reported malaria cases nationwide reached 30,924 compared to 26,308 during the same period in 2010, said Siv Sovannaroth, technical bureau chief at the National Malaria Center.
Over that period, malaria killed 44 people compared with 59 people the previous year.
“The people most at risk are internal migrant workers who work in forested or agricultural areas,” said Mr Sovannaroth. “Migrant workers do not have education on malaria or know about service centers where they are working.”
While much attention has been devoted to women and children, health experts say working males are being infected at a higher rate.
“This is a surprising trend in a way. A lot of focus has been on children and pregnant women,” said Najibullah Habib, project manager for the World Health Organization, adding that malaria had seen an increase in Pursat and Koh Kong provinces, two provinces not traditionally known for the disease.
National and WHO technical experts were traveling to those provinces yesterday to conduct investigations.
“It is still early days in our investigations, and there are several reasons why reported cases of malaria have increased,” he said, citing more diagnostic facilities, heavy rain and the migration of people as contributing factors.
Philipp Guyant, technical adviser at Partners for Development, said that it is difficult to judge trends on a year-by-year basis.
“When we see malaria appearing in traditionally non-malaria areas, where people may not be aware or educated about malaria, we need to change our approach,” said Mr Guyant.
He added that PFD was educating taxi and bus drivers about malaria, because they play a central role in the movement of people.