THE STAR – The spike in malaria cases in parts of Malaysia so far this year is causing concern among health experts, citing climate change as one of the contributory factors.
According to the figures, the number of cases so far this year has exceeded the 404 reported in the whole of 2022.
There were 215 cases reported in Kelantan this year and 840 cases in Sabah as of June, while Terengganu reported 26 cases over the first five months of the year.
These are worrying statistics after the country recorded zero human malaria infections from 2018 to 2021.
The rise in malaria cases also comes as the country is having to deal with an increase in dengue cases due to the hotter and drier weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon.
Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted through the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito. Health experts said zoonotic malaria – carried by monkeys and spread to humans through mosquito bites – remain a concern and they have called for mass blood screening in affected areas.
The zoonotic transmission of malaria usually occurs among individuals residing near forest fringes, plantations and agricultural sites, affecting those involved in activities such as logging, fishing, planting and hunting-gathering.
Public health expert Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said climate change and deforestation could be among the contributing factors.
“It could also be due to people moving nearer to places that are a source of malaria,” said the former Health Ministry official.
On September 25, Kelantan Health Department director Datuk Dr Zaini Hussin said the state had recorded 215 malaria cases this year, an increase of 84 per cent – or 98 – cases compared with the same period last year.
Of this, 53 were human malaria infections and 162 involved zoonotic transmissions.
However, there have been no malaria-related fatalities reported in the state so far.
Of Sabah’s malaria cases, 816 involved zoonotic malaria, followed by 14 imported human malaria cases, and 10 human-introduced malaria infections.
On March 14, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the country is facing a new threat in the form of rising zoonotic malaria cases.