[Current malaria situation in Turkmenistan]

K A Amangel'diev
Meditsinskaia Parazitologiia i Parazitarnye Bolezni 2001, (1): 37-9
Malaria is one of the main health problems facing most developing countries having a hot climate. It is a problem in Turkmenistan. The country is situated in Central Asia, north of the Kopetdag mountains, between the Caspian Sea to the west and the Amu-Darya river to the east. Turkmenistan stretches for a distance of 1,100 km from west to east and 650 km from north to south. It borders Kazakhstan in the north, Uzbekistan in the east and north-east, Iran in the south, and Afghanistan in the south-east. Seven malaria vector species are found in Turkmenistan, the main ones being Anopheles superpictus, An. pulcherrimus, and An. martinius. The potentially endemic area consists of the floodplains of the Tejen and Murgab rivers, with a long chain of reservoirs built along them. In 1980 most cases of imported malaria were recorded in military personnel who had returned from service in Afghanistan. In the past years, only tertian (Plasmodium vivax) malaria has been recorded and there have been no death from malaria over that period. In the Serkhetabad (Gushgi) district there are currently 5 active foci of malaria infection, with a population of 22,000 people. In 1999, forty nine cases of P. vivax malaria were recorded in Turkmenistan. Of them, 36 cases, including 4 children under 14 years were diagnosed for the first time while 13 were relapses. There were 88 fewer cases than those in the previous year (by a factor of 2.8). There were 17 more cases of imported malaria than those in 1998 (by a factor of 1.7), most of which occurred in the foci of malaria infection (Serkhetabad, Tagtabazar, and Kerki districts), in the city of Ashkhabat and in Lebap, Dashkhovuz and Akhal Regions. The emergence of indigenous malaria in the border areas was due to the importation of the disease at intervals by infected mosquitoes flying in from neighbouring countries (e.g. Afghanistan), the lack of drugs to treat the first cases and the lack of alternative insecticides. Most patients suffer from tertian malaria, which is the most dangerous from the epidemiological point of view since the main vectors in Turkmenistan, are highly susceptible to P. vivax infection. The particular dangerous phenomenon is the higher incidence of imported tertian malaria in rural areas where sick people and those who carry the parasite come into close contact with highly susceptible vectors. Thus, the risk that new malaria outbreaks will occur and the disease will become reestablished in the country is very high. It is also influenced by major changes in water use in the country, which have aggravated the mosquito situation. In the area around the Karakum canal and river basins, 17 large reservoirs have been constructed, with very extensive filtration ponds around them, which have become breeding ground's for malaria mosquitoes. There are 1219 water areas without any economic significance in the country, covering a total area of 1054 ha, which require regular treatment with insecticides. With assistance from the WHO European Regional Office, Dr. Guido Sabatinelli in particular, Turkmenistan has developed a plan for preventive malaria control measures for 1999-2001, which has been approved in a decree issued by the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry. The material support received has made it possible to provide large-scale prophylaxis for people who suffered from malaria in 1997-1999, seasonal treatment for people living near the active foci of the disease and interseasonal prophylaxis for people visiting these areas. Seasonal treatment with Dellaguil was made in 4,590 people living in the active foci of malaria infection, and 2,281 fixed-term military personnel belonging to the units stationed in the active foci of malaria infection. In all foci of infection, every person with malaria or carrying the parasite underwent epidemiological investigation and all cases were entered in health clinic records. In 1999, four seminars were held to train 75 specialists from all administrative areas in ways of improving senior staff's skills in the laboratory diagnosis of malaria. The laboratory equipment which the country has received makes it possible to train high-level specialists and to equip its main malaria diagnosis centers with microscopes and reagents. The received insecticides and sprayers enable mosquitoes to be eliminated in an area of 960,000 sq. km (240 foci of infection): for this, our sincere thanks and gratitude are due to Dr. Guido Sabatinelli. Specialists teams have been created in each region by a decree of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry to conduct mosquito elimination activities, with personal responsibility for their progress. Three-day vector control seminars have been held for disinfectors in all regions. We should stress that 5 extra posts have been created in the parasitology department of the Central Laboratory of Hygiene and Epidemiology, State Epidemiological Surveillance Service in order to strengthen preventive malaria control activities in Turkmenistan (organizational and methodological support for health facilities, staff training, etc.). To prevent the emergence of new breeding grounds for malaria vectors, the state system of health surveillance over the hygiene and technical status of water facilities and the rules governing their work have been reinforced. Local executive authorities do every effort to eliminate small, economically unprofitable water areas by draining, filling in or cleaning them. All existing and potential mosquito breeding grounds within a three-kilometer radius of any community were identified. These water areas were certified and their previous certifications analyzed, taking into account any changes and additional information which has become available about the area. Seasonal variations in the number of larvae and imagoes were monitored in the specimen areas of water and daytime resting sites. The existing vector species were identified and a list of the main species in all areas was prepared. Water areas were treated in accordance with epidemiological instructions. These activities yielded positive results: only 10 cases of locally transmitted malaria were recorded throughout the country in 1999. To interrupt the endemic process of malaria in Turkmenistan, the following plan for 1999-2001 has been adopted. To improve the equipment and material base of a sanitary and epidemiological surveillance service and malaria diagnosis laboratories (vehicles, sprayers, microscopes, chemical reagents, etc.). To continue effort to recruit staff to fill vacancies for parasitologists, entomologists, and parasitology laboratory physicians in the sanitary and epidemiological surveillance service at regional, subregional, and district level. In April 2000, two six-day seminars were held for epidemiologists, parasitologists, and entomologists, organized jointly with WHO representatives at the Central Laboratory for Hygiene and Epidemiology. Two seminars on the laboratory diagnosis of malaria for laboratory physicians were also intended to be held in April 2000. To continue to treat malaria patients and parasite carriers throughout the year to prevent relapses. To continue activities to eliminate mosquitoes, to monitor seasonal variations in the number of vector larvae and imagoes in the specimen areas of water and daytime resting sites mosquito habitats, to identify the existing vector species, and to prepare a list of main species in all areas. To strengthen preventive health monitoring. To provide effective support of health care service by the state border guard service of Turkmenistan by supplying drugs for curative and preventive treatment of its staff. To provide the quantities of insecticides required for mosquito elimination and support staff training. To improve malaria control activities by reporting all cases of malaria promptly, conducting a high-quality epidemiological investigation of every case and a prompt laboratory diagnosis, and providing the parasitology departments of sanitary and epidemiological surveillance service at all levels with all-terrain vehicles, microscopes, and effective communication systems which they require. We are very happy to be cooperating with WHO and grateful for the help it has provided.

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