No indigenous cases logged last year; vast majority imported by travelers
Last year, for the first time in decades, China reported no indigenous cases of malaria, marking major progress in the prevention and control of the disease, the country's top health authority said on Tuesday.
China logged 2,675 malaria cases last year. Three of those were transmitted by blood transfusions.
Seven deaths were reported, said Mao Qun'an, head of disease control and prevention at the National Health Commission, during a news conference ahead of China's National Malaria Day, which falls on Thursday.
The country recorded 3,143 malaria cases in 2016. Imported cases have accounted for the majority of cases in the country since 2011.
A handful of domestic malaria cases have been reported since 2015 in areas along the borders of Yunnan province and the Tibet autonomous region, Mao said.
Most of the malaria cases in China come from Africa and Southeast Asian countries, including Angola, Nigeria, Ghana and Myanmar, he said.
Malaria－usually transmitted by mosquitoes－can be fatal in serious cases. It was a major infectious disease in China in the 1970s, infecting more than 30 million people annually and resulting in death in 1 percent of cases, according to the commission.
Malaria in China has declined drastically since the 1970s－to about 35,000 cases by 2002－as a result of ongoing interdepartmental controls and prevention efforts such as disease monitoring, early warning and quarantine, the commission said.
A target set by the Chinese government in 2010 was to eliminate malaria in most areas in China by 2015, and to be totally malaria-free by 2020.
Globally the disease is prevalent in 91 countries and regions, with an estimated 216 million cases worldwide in 2016, an increase of 5 million over 2015. Most cases were reported in Africa, the commission said.
Zhou Shuisen, a malaria researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the main challenge in eliminating malaria in China is curtailing its importation from overseas. That's difficult, considering the rapidly increasing number of travelers coming into the country.
"For outbound tourists, the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid mosquito bites by using various techniques such as mosquito repellent and mosquito-proof windows and doors," he said. "We suggest people take malaria prevention medicine when going to countries where the disease is prevalent."
Passengers who display suspicious symptoms such as colds, fever or sweating are advised to report to Chinese entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities when entering China, so they can get timely diagnoses and treatment, Zhou said.
The National Health Commission will improve its cooperation with other departments to more effectively identify malaria cases arriving from overseas, the commission's Mao said.