25 April 2023, Bangalore – Malaria continues to occur in more than 80 countries, causing over 240 million infections each year, including in business and leisure travellers, and international and domestic employees. The World Health Organization estimates there were 2 million more cases of malaria globally in 2021 compared to 2020. International SOS’ data shows the trend continued in 2022, with the number of requests for assistance related to malaria 10% higher than in 2021. In the context of World Malaria Day 2023, International SOS encourages organisations to support the global effort to invest, innovate and implement to deliver zero malaria.
Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director at International SOS, comments, “From 2007, when India carried 77% of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden to 2021, when it carried 85.2% of the burden, the rise in malaria can no longer be ignored. And now with endemic geographies like Northeast, East and Central India undergoing rapid development, it is important that organizations review the malaria risk to their employees and protect them through structured programs. Increasing awareness, medical oversight and reviews, pre-travel advisories and ensuring access to diagnostic and treatment modalities will form the backbone of organizational preparedness against malaria.”
Dr Dave Knight, Medical Doctor and Malaria Specialist at International SOS, comments, “Malaria cases and deaths have actually risen during the pandemic, and globally we seem to have lost some traction in controlling malaria. For the private sector, malaria remains a key health risk when operating in the tropics, especially in Africa and parts of Asia and South America. It is predicted with climate change that this risk could grow. Furthermore, there are no ground-shifting technology solutions imminent over the next few years that will allow significant mitigation of this risk in a company workforce. We still rely on age-old interventions. On a positive note, the new RTS, S vaccine is being rolled out in high-transmission areas in Africa for infants and young children. It is not suitable for adults yet provides moderate but important protection to very young children over the first few years of life. The private sector should support this initiative in communities within which they operate where appropriate.”
With the ongoing recovery of international business travel, there is a greater need to ensure protection against malaria for all those potentially exposed. People returning from their travels should be aware of malaria as a potential diagnosis. Global travel also has the potential to reintroduce or increase transmission of malaria in tropical and temperate countries that have either eliminated or controlled transmission. Thus, it’s critical for business travellers to do a pre-travel risk assessment of their destination, understand the symptoms and signs of malaria. If travelling to a malaria-prone area, business travellers should choose accommodation fitted with a bed net and air-conditioning and know when and how to take their emergency standby medication.
International SOS outlines how organisations can help promote awareness and prevention of malaria
1. Review the malaria risk to their workforce and if operating in malaria-prone areas, implement an integrated malaria control programme
2. Educate employees on the risk of malaria and the importance of personal protection measures against mosquito bites using the ABCDE approach
3. Provide preventive supplies such as insect repellent and anti-malarial
4. Offer employees travelling to malarial areas with access to pre-travel medical review and destination travel risk-assessment
5. Ensure travelling employees choose accommodations with a bed net, air-conditioning and screening on doors and windows
International SOS advises the ABCDE approach to malaria prevention
Awareness: be Aware of the risk and the symptoms.
Bite prevention: avoid being Bitten by mosquitoes.
Chemoprophylaxis: if prescribed for, use Chemoprophylaxis (antimalarial medication) to prevent infection.
Diagnosis: immediately seek Diagnosis and treatment if a fever develops one week or more after being in a malarial area
Emergency: carry an Emergency Standby Treatment (EST) kit if available and recommended (the kit that contains malaria treatment)
Join International SOS upcoming webinar on 25 April to learn from health experts on which malaria prevention strategies your organisation can adopt to contribute towards zero malaria in Africa. Register here. International SOS also provides consulting services for every part of a company’s malaria risk mitigation programme, including experienced entomology consulting, assessment and design vector control programmes, eLearning to educate employees, medical consulting to ensure proper diagnostic and treatment pathways and data management, as well as ensuring a programme is well managed.
International SOS and Relate
International SOS has partnered with the Relate organisation for 10 years running, raising money by supporting their bracelet campaign. The Relate Trust is a proudly 100% not-for-profit social enterprise which predominantly sells handmade beaded bracelets around the world to raise money for charities globally, while creating jobs for people in low-income communities. To date, over 4 million bracelets were sold worldwide and R72 million was raised to fight malaria2