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Home News centre National Press Releases 2011 Press Releases ›  Malaria cases up almost 30 per cent in two years as it’s revealed most cases haven’t taken antimalaria tablets

Malaria cases up almost 30 per cent in two years as it’s revealed most cases haven’t taken antimalaria tablets

25 April 2011

New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on World Malaria Day show that malaria infections have increased for the second year running with 1,761 cases reported in 2010 compared with 1,495 in 2009 and 1,370 in 2008.  This is an increase of nearly 30 per cent since 2008.

Malaria is an almost completely preventable disease when precautions are taken, but the latest figures show that where the history of taking antimalarial medication was obtained, 85 per cent of cases (850 out of 997 with information available) had not taken precautions. 

Over the last ten years around half of all cases of malaria reported in the UK have been seen in people who travel to West Africa and India, mostly to visit friends and relatives. In 2010, almost 40 per cent (671) of UK residents who contracted the disease had visited either Nigeria or Ghana, and 11 per cent (195) had been to India.

This group of people may be more likely to acquire malaria for a number of reasons, including: not seeking or being unable to access medical advice on malaria prevention before travel, receiving poor advice, not adhering to advice, or not perceiving themselves to be at risk because the destination is familiar to them. It is likely that all these factors contribute to the individual's risk of contracting the disease.

Travellers who visit friends and relatives are also at greater risk of other travel-related infectious diseases, compared to business or holiday travellers, because they tend to travel for longer periods of time (e.g. a month or more) and usually stay with family or friends.  Living as part of the community can mean people have a similar risk of acquiring infection as the local population.

Professor Peter Chiodini, who heads up the HPA's malaria reference laboratory, said: "Today is World Malaria Day which provides a timely reminder to anyone who is travelling to a country where malaria is present to take travel advice and appropriate medication to protect themselves against the disease. Even people living in Britain visiting the country in which they were born or grew up, or have previously visited, are not immune from malaria and should take precautions. 

Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA's travel and migrant health section, said: "Malaria is a potentially deadly disease but is almost completely preventable. Anyone who is planning to travel to a tropical destination should always seek advice from their GP or travel health clinic before their trip. 

"It is a myth that people who have had malaria will not get it again. Our advice is the same for all travellers - you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe".


Notes for editors:

1. For more advice on malaria prevention use the attached link to the HPA website

There are several different types of malaria and the data show that there has been a steady rise in the proportion of cases due to Plasmodium falciparum, which is the cause of most deaths from malaria. This type of malaria was most commonly seen in people who had been to West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana. The majority of other cases of malaria were Plasmodium vivax and these are mainly seen in people who have been to South Asia.

2. A table of UK malaria cases per country of infection in descending order

Country of infection

Total 2010

Deaths 2010

Total 2009

Deaths 2009





















Sierra Leone




















Ivory Coast











Global impact of malaria

Malaria has a massive impact on human health; it is the world's second biggest killer after tuberculosis. In 2008, 247 millions cases of malaria with almost 1 million deaths (881000) - the disease accounts for 20% of childhood deaths in Africa. Around 3.3 A billion of the world's population is at risk. The societies and economic development of some of the world's poorest nations are severely affected by malaria.


It is important for travellers to be aware of the symptoms of malaria, which can include a flu-like illness, fever, shaking, headache, muscle aches and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also occur.

If travellers develop these symptoms whilst abroad or up to one year after returning, they should seek prompt medical advice and tell their doctor they have been in an area where malaria occurs. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes in tropical areas and it cannot spread directly from person to person.

Seeking advice

Members of the public should seek advice about their specific travel health needs from their GP surgery or local travel clinic.

An information sheet on insect bite avoidance, updates on other travel health issues, and country specific health advice are available on the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website at

Malaria Reference Laboratory

The Malaria Reference Laboratory provides an integrated service for public health in relation to malaria. It combines reference and diagnostic parasitology of malaria with surveillance of all imported malaria reported in the UK, analysing the results and using these, together with wide consultation to develop national policy on prevention of imported malaria, which it then disseminates widely.

3. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.  It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. To find out more, visit our website:

4. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 020 8327 7901 or email Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 020 8200 4400.



Last reviewed: 26 April 2011