China free of malaria for the first time in 70 years

Malaria parasites - seen here infecting red blood cells - and mosquitoes do not like cold temperatures
Malaria parasites - seen here infecting red blood cells - and mosquitoes do not like cold temperatures

China has won the fight against the infectious disease malaria, with the World Health Organization (WHO) announcing on Wednesday that the world’s most populous country has been officially declared malaria-free.

“Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.”

So far, according to WHO, around 40 countries have officially won the fight against malaria. China is the first country in 30 years to achieve this breakthrough in the western Pacific region.

In the 1940s, China reported about 30 million cases of malaria per year. Since then, numerous government programmes have led to a decline in the number of infections.

According to the WHO, China started to distribute medicine to prevent the disease in risk areas decades ago. Mosquito-breeding areas have also been systematically reduced and insect repellents and protective nets have been made widely available.

Malaria is transmitted by infected Anopheles mosquitoes. A parasite triggers an infectious disease that causes, among other things, high fever, headache and chills. If malaria is not treated quickly, the disease can be life-threatening.

According to the WHO’s latest World Malaria Report, there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019, compared to 228 million cases in 2018.
The estimated number of malaria deaths was 409,000 in 2019, compared to 411,000 deaths in 2018. Africa, where 94 per cent of all malaria cases occurred most recently, is by far the hardest hit by the disease.

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