Families visiting relatives in the Indian sub continent are being warned of a significant risk of contracting malaria, unless they take adequate precautions. This is despite a 5% decrease in malaria cases to other parts of the world.

The warning, issued by Health Protection Agency (HPA) and timed to coincide with World Malaria Day, comes after new figures show a 22% increase in malaria returning from the Indian sub-continent.

In 2010 274 cases were reported but last year the figure increased to 334.

The increase in cases from the Indian-subcontinent is largely due to a doubling of cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria acquired in Pakistan.

Professor Peter Chiodini, head of 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 malaria medication to protect themselves. Anyone who has been to a malaria risk area anywhere in the world should seek urgent medical attention if they become unwell after their return to the UK."

Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA's Travel and Migrant Health Section, added: "People living in the UK who were born in a country affected by malaria may incorrectly believe that they are 'immune' or that they cannot become seriously ill from malaria when they return to that country to visit friends and relatives. The reality is that any resistance they may have to the infection decreases quite quickly once people come to live in the UK so they are actually at risk. All travellers to malaria affected areas, irrespective of where they were born, should seek pre-travel advice before their trip and make sure that they take recommended measures to protect themselves against malaria.

The HPA recommend the best way to prevent malaria is to follow the ABCD of malaria prevention; be Aware, use Bite avoidance measures, take Chemoprophylaxis (preventive tablets), and seek prompt Diagnosis if you develop a fever during or after travel.

Posted by Penny Hosie