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Malaria deaths slump

Tuesday December 9th, 2014

Deaths from malaria have fallen dramatically this century – but it still afflicts millions, the World Health Organisation warned today.

Some 128 million people were infected by the disease last year compared with 173 million in the first year of the new century, new figures show.

This is linked to a halving of deaths from malaria, WHO said.

WHO said access to insecticide-treated bed nets has been a key factor.

These have reached half the at-risk population of sub-Saharan Africa in less than a decade. In 2004, just 3% of people had these nets.

Improved testing and access to artemisin treatments has helped cut deaths, WHO said.

The report shows that malaria may have been eliminated in two new countries, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan.

WHO warned of the risks faced by patients in the Ebola-hit countries of west Africa where most hospitals remain closed and the public are reluctant to attend out-patient facilities.

And it warned of growing resistance to drugs in the Greater Mekong region of Asia.

Dr Pedro Alonso, from WHO, said: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains.”

• Spraying insecticides inside homes is not an effective way to prevent malaria, researchers say today.

A study in The Gambia found that extra spraying provided no more protection than insecticide treated nets.

Health workers had hoped that spraying might help combat mosquitoes by killing them when they landed on household surfaces.

Reported in The Lancet, the research involved 8,000 children in 70 clusters of villages.

Researcher Professor Steve Lindsay of Durham University, UK, said: “Our findings do not support any universal recommendation for indoor residual spraying as an addition to long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) across sub-Saharan Africa.

“High bed net use is sufficient to protect people against malaria in areas that have low or moderate levels of malaria like The Gambia.”

Efficacy of indoor residual spraying with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane against malaria in Gambian communities with high usage of long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Lancet 9 December 2014 [abstract]

Tags: Africa | Asia | General Health | UK News | World Health

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