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Govt aiming to eradicate malaria over next decade

Feb 14. 2016
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Infection rate among Thais has been greatly reduced.
THE Disease Control Department has pledged to eradicate “indigenous” malaria in Thailand by 2026, but said “imported” malaria would remain a risk.
“We will hold a meeting on a 10-year strategy for malaria eradication this Monday [today] and aim for zero malaria infections in Thailand by 2023 and no new infections until 2026, so it can be officially declared that malaria is totally eliminated from Thailand,” Dr Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of the department, said last week. 
He led a department team to inspect the border areas of Mae Sot and Tha Song Yang districts in Tak province last Thursday and Friday. 
Amnuay said the malaria control campaign was getting better, as the number of new cases was lower every year and the infection rate was low enough to start the eradication programme.
Today’s meeting would also discuss funding for the programme.
“The strategy to get rid of malaria will include developing a malaria monitoring system to detect infected people to treat and quarantine, enhancing public healthcare, controlling the anopheles carrier and educating the at-risk population on malaria prevention measures,” he said.
Dr Nipon Chinanonwait, director of the Bureau of Vector-Borne Diseases, said there were 24,850 malaria cases last year, down 85 per cent from about 150,000 cases in 2000.
“The strict disease control policy and quarantines have resulted in good progress. Now, we only find malaria in only 37 of 1,000 citizens,” he said.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries with a malaria infection rate under 1 per cent of the population to upgrade their disease control programme to an eradication programme,” he said.
According to the department’s statistics from last year, malaria is still present in the border areas of the country such as Tak (9,777 cases), Ubon Ratchathani (4,411), Yala (1,795), Kanchanaburi (1,281), Mae Hong Son (1,217) and Si Sa Ket (1,056).
Nearly half of the patients were foreigners, mostly from Myanmar.
Yaowarej Wisutyothin, technical specialist at the Phitsanulok Disease Prevention and Control Office 2, said it was very difficult to contain trans-border transmission, especially in Tak, which shares a long border with Myanmar that can be easily crossed without passing through immigration checkpoints.
“In Thailand, malaria can be hardly noticed in the areas beyond the border because our good healthcare system can eliminate the disease within our country very well. 
“However, in our neighbour countries such as Myanmar, their healthcare is still poor and malaria is still plentiful,” he said.
“Our main challenge is to detect people infected with malaria who may cross the border, quarantine them and treat them before they may start a new malaria outbreak in Thailand.”
Amnuay said there was healthcare collaboration at the bilateral level under both the WHO and Asean frameworks to improve the disease control mission in neighbouring countries. 
There was also progressive health promotion at the city-to-city level to distribute malaria prevention equipment and knowledge.
“The movement of people infected with malaria to Thailand will not affect our effort to eradicate malaria from our country because we only count new infections within our country. 
“However, it is a priority to prevent new outbreaks in Thailand from carriers from outside,” he said. 

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