Lanka close to WHO malaria free certificate, but….

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

 The Anti-Malaria Campaign (AMC) of the Health Ministry yesterday expressed concern that malaria patients returning from overseas who went undetected could ruin Sri Lanka’s chances of receiving the WHO certification as a Malaria Free Country next year.

 Director of the AMC, Dr. R. Premaratne said that a majority of malaria patients detected in Sri Lanka at present were categorised as imported cases. They were Sri Lankans who had travelled abroad for business purposes, pilgrimages etc. 

Last year 95 imported malaria cases were reported, but it has dropped to about 45 cases this year.

Dr. Premaratne said BBC on Tuesday (09), had quoted the WHO World Malaria Report 2013 as stating that two countries namely, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan had reported zero indigenous cases for the first time this year. The last indigenous malaria case was detected in Sri Lanka in October, 2012.  

The Director of the AMC, however, warned that the country should not be lulled into a false sense of complacency: "We have only eliminated the organism which causes the disease. But, its carrier, the Anopheles mosquito is still present in the country." The risk of mosquito-borne diseases raising their heads again due to imported cases was always there, he said.

 Dr. Premaratne said that in the mid 1930s over five million malaria cases had been reported in the country and of them 80,000 had died. However, the number had decreased to 17 in 1963. It resulted in a relaxation of surveillance in the country. As a consequence a tremendous outbreak took place once more. In the late 1990s the numbers had reached a startling 264,549. He said that it was important for the country to remain vigilant at this juncture to qualify for the WHO certification next year.

 "In fact, it is not a question of receiving a certification but ridding the country of malaria entirely," Dr. Premaratne stressed.

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