Malaria in China

Key facts

  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
  • Malaria is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes. There are over 15 species of Anopheles in the Western Pacific Region capable of malaria transmission; each has its own breeding preferences and biting habits.
  • Malaria is preventable and curable.
  • Key interventions to control malaria include: prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies; use of insecticidal nets by people at risk; and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes.
  • Artemisinin resistant falciparum malaria remains one of the biggest challenges to malaria control in the Western Pacific Region. While containment efforts on the Cambodia-Thailand border have been successful, new foci of resistance are being discovered in other areas, necessitating a regional containment strategy.

The situation

  • Malaria is in the list of category B of notifiable diseases to be reported according to the Law of Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control of China.
  • In China, endemic malaria is caused by two types of parasites P. falciparum and P. vivax.
  • Reported malaria cases have declined dramatically in China through years of efforts. The annual incidence of malaria had been reduced to tens of thousands by the end of 1990s from 24 million at the beginning of the 1970s.
  • In 2010, the government of China launched a national campaign on malaria elimination, with the goal of eliminating the disease throughout China by 2020.
  • In 2011, 1,398 falciparum malaria cases were reported in 28 provinces, of which, 1,366 were imported from overseas. Among the 1,366 imported cases, 1,111 were reported in 26 non-falciparum-malaria-endemic provinces.
  • In 2011, the number of cases of imported falciparum malaria in non-endemic provinces increased by 49.13%, with 30 deaths – double the number for 2010.
  • The epidemic area of falciparum malaria in China has been significantly narrowed, to Yunnan and Hainan provinces.
  • According to national guidelines, the treatment for falciparum malaria is artemisin-based combination (ACT) while chloroquine plus primaquine for the treatment of vivax malaria.
  • China has been working on a therapeutic efficacy study of antimalarial drugs in Yunnan province since 2008, supported by WHO. To date, there is no evidence of confirmed artemisinin resistance in China.

WHO's response

The WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP) is responsible for charting the course for malaria control and elimination through:

  • forming evidence-based policy and strategy formulation;
  • keeping an independent score of global progress;
  • developing approaches for capacity building, systems strengthening, and surveillance;
  • identifying threats to malaria control and elimination as well as new areas for action;
  • supporting China's technical assistance to Africa;
  • supporting and facilitating prequalification of anti-malarial drugs.
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