CONTAINMENT

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AFRIMS Mobile Units Help Detect Malaria

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CONTAINMENT’s Nat Sumon accompanied an Armed Forces Medical Research Institute for Medical Science (AFRIMS) mobile unit to a remote location on the Thailand side of the border to screen soldiers for malaria.

Thai soldiers line up for blood samples to be taken from them by the AFRIMS mobile unit. Pix by WHO/ Nat Sumon

Over the course of history, in times of war, more soldiers have died from malaria than in direct combat. During the Vietnam War (1962–1975), malaria felled more combatants during the war than bullets. The disease reduced the combat strength of some units by half.

Over 40,000 cases of malaria were reported in U.S. Army troops alone between 1965 and 1970 with 78 deaths. The U.S. Army established a malaria drug research program when U.S. troops first encountered drug resistant malaria during the war. In 1967, Chinese scientists set up Project 523 – a secret military project – to help the Vietnamese military defeat malaria by developing artemisinin based anti malarial formulations.

For the Thai army, malaria still remains a threat despite the drastic fall in cases of falciparum malaria – the most fatal form of the mosquito-borne disease. According to 2010 Royal Thai Army statistics, 572 soldiers contracted malaria along the Thai-Cambodian border and constituted one-fourth of overall malaria patients seeking treatment in the area.

Many Thai soldiers used to harsh tropical jungle conditions are well aware of protective measures. If they fall sick, they are instructed to go either to local malaria clinics or local hospitals to have their blood tested on a weekly basis.

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Written by malariacontainment

July 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Respondent-Driven Sampling on the Thailand-Cambodia Border: Can Malaria Cases be Contained in Mobile Migrant Workers?

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Respondent driven sampling methodology, for hidden populations, is an effective strategy to study the migrant populations from Myanmar and Cambodia on the Thailand-Cambodia border, write Amnat Khamsiriwatchara, Piyaporn Wangroongsarb, Julie Thwing, James Eliades, Wichai Satimai, Charles Delacollette and Jaranit Kaewkungwal in the Malaria Journal.

There is substantial population movement across the Thai-Cambodian border that is largely driven by economics. Migrants from both Cambodia and Myanmar settle for varying periods of time in Thailand, often in search of work. The International Organization of Migration reported that Thailand has attracted increasing numbers of migrant workers, mostly from neighbouring countries with over one million registered migrant workers entering the country since 2004.

Migrant workers in Chantaburi on the Thailand side of the Thai - Cambodian border. Pix by WHO/Nat Sumon

Channels for migration, in particular labour migration, are defined by the policy of the destination country, usually in response to the demand of domestic labour markets for foreign workers. When the supply through established channels does not match the demand, irregular migration dynamics develop, and migrants enter illegally and undocumented.

While various government ministries attempt to collect data on migrant workers, they usually have information on the number of registered migrants and those applying for work permits, but little information on the unregistered migrants. The true size of the migrant worker population in Thailand, in particular of irregular migrants, is notoriously difficult to quantify.

Rather than classifying migrant workers as documented or undocumented, the Thailand Ministry of Public Health defines migrants who have been in Thailand for more than six months as M1, and migrants who have been in Thailand for less than six months as M2.

Both M1 and M2 migrants are eligible to receive diagnosis and treatment for malaria free of charge at malaria clinics in border zones. Patients who cross the border for a day to seek treatment at the border clinics are counted among the M2. Migrants in Thailand account for a higher proportion of cases than Thai citizens, especially among the M2 migrants.

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