Diane Abbott MP, the Shadow Health Minister, has called for a new campaign to raise awareness in London about the risk of contracting malaria abroad.
Her own constituency, Hackney, has one of the highest rates of malaria cases in the UK, which is attributed to members of the community visiting relatives in West Africa and India where malaria is widespread.
According to the Department of Health, eight out of ten malaria cases in UK residents occur as a result of visiting friends and family abroad.
Families travelling in an emergency are at particular risk because they do not have time to arrange for anti-malarial drugs.
Speaking at a public consultation on malaria with Hackney Link, to coincide with Malaria Awareness Week (9-15 May), Ms Abbott said: ‘It is significant that our communities know so little about the risks. Are they lacking information before they travel, are they having trouble getting the anti-malarial drugs or do they think they’re somehow immune?
‘Knowledge about malaria can literally be a matter of life or death. We need a public awareness campaign focussed on what people can do to protect themselves and their families.
‘We must also look at why anti-malarial drugs aren’t routinely available on prescription and why they have to be bought privately.’
Ms Abbott called for London to do more to raise awareness about the risks of malaria which killed seven people in the UK last year, and to promote effective ways to stay protected against the disease.
The meeting discussed a range of possible community initiatives to tackle malaria, including work with faith groups, schools, airlines and travel agencies, GP surgeries, travel clinics, specialist nurses, pharmacies, hairdressers and NHS websites.
According to the Health Protection Agency in 2010 almost 40 per cent (671) of UK residents who contracted the disease had visited either Nigeria or Ghana, and 11 per cent (195) had been to India. There were a total of 1761 new malaria cases in the UK in 2010, a 30 per cent rise since 2008.
For more information please call Gabe Trodd on
020 7219 4426