Cases of malaria in the UK have risen by almost a third in two years, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency.
The HPA said there were 1,761 reports of malaria in the UK in 2010, an increase on the 1,495 in 2009 and 1,370 cases in 2008.
In a bid to cut this number, the health body urged travellers to take the necessary precautions, including anti-malaria pills, if travelling abroad to countries where the disease is a problem.
During its research, the HPA found that most of the time - 85% of cases - reports of the disease involved people failing to take the appropriate medication when travelling abroad to see relatives or friends, with some falsely believing the “myth” they are immune to the disease because they have had it before or once lived in the country they are visiting.
The most recent figures show that four out of 10 cases in 2010 were among UK residents who had travelled to Nigeria or Ghana, while 11% of reported cases were among people who had visited India.
Symptoms of malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, can develop within eight days of a bite from the insect but the disease may stay inactive in the body for up to a year.
The World Health Organisation estimates there were 243 million cases of malaria in 2008 and that almost a million deaths were caused by the disease.
Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA’s travel and migrant health section, said: “Malaria is a potentially deadly disease but is almost completely preventable. Anyone who is planning to travel to a tropical destination should always seek advice from their GP or travel health clinic before their trip.”