Malaria is not usually thought of as a major disease in the Middle East, but a study from Yemen in this week's BMJ reveals worryingly high levels of severe malaria in children.
In fact, the figures show that as many as 4 out of 10 children attending hospital with severe illness could be affected during the peak season. This is comparable to many areas of Africa.
Researchers identified over 2,000 children aged 6 months to 10 years who were admitted to two public hospitals with suspected severe malaria. Malaria was confirmed in 1,332 children, 808 of whom had severe malaria.
The proportion of admissions varied according to the season, from 1% between July and September to 40% in February and March. Twenty six children died in hospital. Most deaths were in children with a neurological presentation, and more girls died than boys.
Severe malaria puts a high burden on health services in Yemen, say the authors. Malaria control should be a priority and lesson should be learnt from other areas of highly seasonal malaria.
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