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Improving diagnosis of malaria

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Malaria is a disease regularly discussed in primary care travel health clinics with UK patients planning to travel an area of risk. It is found in more than 100 countries, affecting 3.3 billion people, equivalent to half the world's population.

In 2010, there were about 216 million malaria cases (with an uncertainty range of 149 million to 274 million) and an estimated 655,000 malaria deaths (with an uncertainty range of 537 000 to 907 000). Most deaths occur in Africa.1

In addition to known diagnoses of malaria, we must also factor in the thousands of people who contract malaria, but remain undiagnosed. Some estimates indicate that malaria may affect more than 500 million people a year, the majority being children.2 The worldwide actual number of deaths is not known with certainty, as accurate data is undocumented in many rural areas.

In the UK, there were 1,677 cases of malaria reported in 2010, of which 69 per cent of cases were caused by the most serious type of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum.1

The profile of disease has recently been raised in this country by celebrities such as pop star Cheryl Cole, who was diagnosed with malaria in 2010 after returning from a safari in Tanzani, and has since become an advocate for malaria education.

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