London, July 4 : There has been a significant increase in the number of malaria cases reported in Britain over the past 20 years, say researchers.
According to a Health Protection Agency study 6,753 cases of falciparum malaria were reported in the country between 2002 and 2006 compared to 5120 cases in 1987.
Researchers suggest with the increasing number of people travelling to malaria endemic areas, combined with a failure to use prevention measures, have substantially increased imported falciparum malaria cases in the UK.
While analysing the data, lead researcher Dr Adrian Smith found that 4.5pct of 20488 malaria cases amongst UK travellers had visited friends and relatives in malaria endemic countries.
This is reflected by the huge increase in the number of UK residents travelling to malaria endemic areas from 593 000 visits in 1987 to 2.6 million visits in 2004.
Among the malaria cases reported, 96pct of falciparum malaria occurred after travel to Africa, particularly among people who visited friends and relatives in West Africa.
People visiting Nigeria and Ghana, neither common tourist destinations, accounted for half of all imported falciparum cases.
Moreover, people visiting friends and relatives in their country of origin were less likely to report using prevention measures than other travellers. Only 42 pct UK travellers reported taking any form of malaria prophylaxis during their travels
The study highlights the urgent need for health messages and services targeted at travellers from migrant groups visiting friends and family abroad, say the authors.
"Targeting messages tailored to these groups is essential in primary care and public health...and this would have a substantial impact on UK malaria", British Medical Journal quoted, the authors as saying.