Potential threat of malaria epidemics in a low transmission area, as exemplified by Sao Tome and Principe

P.-W., Lee,, C.-T., Liu,, Virgilio Estólio do Rosário, Bruno Cecílio de Sousa, H. S. Rampao,, M.-F. Shaio,

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Background: Plasmodium falciparum is the major cause of malaria infection in the island of Sao Tome, in the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe (STP), with an incidence of 40 - 50% before 2004. Since 2004, through the coordination of the Ministry of Health of STP and their Centro Nacional de Endemias (CNE), an integrated malaria control programme has been intensively deployed on the island of Sao Tome. Malaria morbidity and mortality decreased by 95% after three years of effective intervention. In the low transmission settings, however, malaria seasonal fluctuation can be a potential problem directly related to epidemics if ongoing control measures are interrupted. Studies on a number of associated factors with malaria epidemics and the measures taken to respond to outbreaks are presented. Methods: The integrated malaria control programme included indoor residual spraying (IRS), long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), intermittent preventive therapy for pregnant women, as well as early diagnosis and prompt treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Regular implementation of an island-wide IRS programme was carried out yearly in 2004-2007, and enhanced throughout the island in 2009. Malaria incidence and prevalence were estimated based on passive case detection and mass screening, respectively. Slide positivity rates were used for monitoring the beginning of a malaria epidemic or a seasonal peak. Results: A steep decline of ca. 95% of malaria morbidity and mortality was observed between 2004 and 2008 with use of the combined control methods. Malaria incidence was 2.0%, 1.5%, and 3.0% for 2007, 2008, and 2009, respectively. In April 2008, a cross-sectional country-wide surveillance showed malaria prevalence of 3.5%, of which 95% cases were asymptomatic carriers. Only 50% of asymptomatic carriers were cured with ACT treatment, while 90% of the symptomatic patients were cured by ACT treatment as confirmed with a follow up study. Malaria morbidity increased by three-fold during the first half of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008. Over this period of six months, severe malaria was also noted in all age groups and malaria mortality increased by two-fold in children less than five years old. After an emergency IRS was deployed, with increased use of LLINs, and an active search of asymptomatic carriers was followed and given complete ACT treatment, malaria incidence decreased to less than 1% in the second half of 2009. Conclusion: At the initial stage of the integrated malaria control programme, IRS contributed to the visible effect on the rapid reduction of malaria morbidity and mortality, while this programme highlights an urgent demand for the improvement of other measures, particularly promotion of LLINs usage, with close monitoring of asymptomatic carriers and with ACT treatment in malaria transmission hotspots. In addition, both daily reports and a regular active surveillance to prevent malaria outbreaks should be established permanently, so that a fast response to epidemics can be effectively made when necessary.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)264
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue numberNA
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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