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Background

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was certified by the World Health Organization to be free of endemic malaria transmission in 2007. There continued to be, however, a substantial number of imported malaria cases.

Methods

A retrospective laboratory and chart review was performed to describe the epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory characteristics of imported malaria in Dubai, UAE. Laboratory records were reviewed at the largest public hospital in Dubai to identify cases of peripheral blood smear-positive malaria from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010. Predefined demographic, clinical, and laboratory information was extracted from the electronic medical record system.

Results

A total of 629 cases of malaria were identified including 493, 122, and 14 cases of Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum, and mixed P. vivax/P. falciparum infections, respectively. Of these, 567 (90.1%) cases were either from India or Pakistan and 7% from sub-Saharan Africa. There were no cases among the local Emirati population. There were 162 hospitalizations, including 8 requiring intensive care support and 1 death. More than 10% of P. vivax infections required hospitalization. The interval between arrival in the UAE and diagnosis was 3 months or longer for 25% of P. vivax cases.

Conclusions

Imported malaria remains an important cause of morbidity in the UAE. Clinicians need to be aware that P. vivax is not benign and can cause severe disease and that malaria cases may present to health facilities several months after arrival from malaria-endemic regions.