Urban malaria transmission in a non-endemic area in the Andean region of Colombia

BACKGROUND Rapid urbanisation in difficult socio-economic conditions such as inadequate housing infrastructure, lack of public services, improper sanitation, and poor water drainage systems in vegetation-rich areas lead to ecological conditions that are conducive to the breeding of mosquitoes and transmission of malaria, in semi-urban and urban settings. OBJECTIVES This study aimed to describe the cases of malaria that were reported in the peri-urban areas of Pereira (Colombia), between 2008 and 2015. METHODS A retrospective study was conducted using data from the Malaria Surveillance System 2009-2015 and an outbreak study (between December 2008 and March 2009). Frequency distributions and summary measures, as well as univariate analysis were performed for all the variables in consideration. The annual parasite index (API) was calculated. FINDINGS Data on 214 cases were obtained from the surveillance system. A majority of the cases were reported in men (63.1%), followed by in children < 15 years (23.8%), and were caused predominantly by Plasmodium vivax (86.0%), with most of the infection occurring in the urban areas (52.8%) of Pereira. The API, by sex and age group, was higher among men ≥ 80 years. The outbreak study reported 14 cases of malaria in rural/peri-urban neighborhoods, and it was observed that the anopheline breeding sites were in close proximity to the houses in these areas. This population did not use protective measures against mosquitoes and chemical control was conducted through residual and spatial insecticide spraying. MAIN CONCLUSIONS This study suggested the presence of autochthonous malaria transmission, in Pereira, between 2008 and 2015, most of which were cases of P. vivax. A greater intensity was observed between 2008 and 2009 when malaria was possibly reintroduced to the region. During the years of the study, a gradual decrease in the number of reported cases of malaria was observed in Pereira, except for the time period between 2008 and 2009 when a spike was noted (estimated using the API); this was most likely caused by an outbreak. Interventions that are more aggressive in nature are required to prevent further malarial transmission and dissemination.