Health officials in Southern Thailand are on high alert after 11 people became infected with a strain of malaria that primarily infect the macaque monkey, governor Chamnanwit Terat said on Monday.
Health authorities said Trat, Songkhla, and Ranong in the south accounted for the most prone areas of Plasmodium Knowlesi infections.
Koh Chang has reported nine of the infections, with the rest being reported from Bo Rai. According to the governor, most of the patients lived and/or worked near forests inhabited by the macaque monkey.
Although they have since recovered, Mr. Chamnanwit said they had been asked to remain vigilant to prevent further spread within the community from the macaque monkey.
Over the course of the past year, 70 people have contracted malaria, which is caused by a parasite.
P. knowlesi, like other malaria-causing parasites, can only be spread by its vector — Anopheles mosquitos.
In 2004, researchers in Sarawak, Malaysia, discovered that the parasite was capable of infecting humans and long-tailed and the pig-tailed macaque monkey.
The provincial administration plans to inform the public about the threat posed by Plasmodium Knowlesi infections, Mr. Chamnanwut said.
To prevent being infected, residents living near forested areas are advised to apply mosquito repellents before going out and sleeping with mosquito nets covering them.
According to the Department of Disease Control, residents living near wild macaque habitats are also advised to take extra precautions.
On Koh Chang, a popular tourist destination, at least 1,000 long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques live, according to park chief Dusit Samuttrakapong.
About Plasmodium knowlesi and the Macaque Monkey
P. knowlesi has now been recognized as the fifth type of Plasmodium causing malaria in humans. Infections have been reported throughout Southeast Asia.
According to molecular, entomological, and epidemiological data, human infections with P. knowlesi are not newly emerging, and knowlesi malaria is primarily a zoonotic disease.
In humans, infections were not diagnosed until molecular detection methods distinguished P. knowlesi from the morphologically similar P. malariae.
The infections caused by P. knowlesi in humans are potentially fatal, but if detected early enough, the infections are treatable. Read more.