Health Experts Warn of Airport Malaria [Archives:2000/35/Health]

August 28 2000

GENEVAHealth authorities in many countries are becoming increasingly concerned about the potentially deadly risks of malaria carried into their territory by jet-setting mosquitoes that travel on international flights and spread the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press release here last Monday.
A serious consequence of the transport of infected mosquitoes aboard aircraft has been the numerous cases of airport malaria reported in Europe, North America and elsewhere, said experts of a report published in the August issue of the WHO Bulletin.
Airport malaria is particularly dangerous in that physicians generally have little reason to suspect it, according to the experts. This is especially true if there has been no recent
travel to areas where malaria is endemic. Diagnosis may, therefore, be protracted and death may occur before a correct diagnosis is made and adequate treatment provided.
Between 1969 ad 1999, 12 countries reported a total of 87 cases of malaria in people living near an airport, resulting in at lease five deaths. All cases occurred among people with no immunity to the disease. Long delays in making correct diagnosis frequently resulted in patients developing severe or complicated malaria.
There is an important on-going need for disinfecting aircraft that come from airports in the areas where the tropical disease is endemic, the experts pointed out. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes may enter the passenger cabin before take-off or during
stopovers or may survive the trip in the luggage hold. Many countries already insist that arriving aircraft be disinfected, especially if they have come from areas where vector-
borne disease are endemic, WHO said. It is common for an arriving aircraft to be sprayed by the health services of the country of destination if there is any doubt as to whether treatment has been applied earlier in the flight.