Human population movement and behavioural patterns in malaria hotspots on the Thai-Myanmar border: Implications for malaria elimination

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Abstract

Background: Malaria is heterogeneously distributed across landscapes. Human population movement (HPM) could link sub-regions with varying levels of transmission, leading to the persistence of disease even in very low transmission settings. Malaria along the Thai-Myanmar border has been decreasing, but remains heterogeneous. This study aimed to measure HPM, associated predictors of travel, and HPM correlates of self-reported malaria among people living within malaria hotspots. Methods: 526 individuals from 279 households in two malaria hotspot areas were included in a prospective observational study. A baseline cross-sectional study was conducted at the beginning, recording both individual- and household-level characteristics. Individual movement and travel patterns were repeatedly observed over one dry season month (March) and one wet season month (May). Descriptive statistics, random effects logistic regressions, and logistic regressions were used to describe and determine associations between HPM patterns, individual-, household-factors, and self-reported malaria. Results: Trips were more common in the dry season. Malaria risk was related to the number of days doing outdoor activities in the dry season, especially trips to Myanmar, to forest areas, and overnight trips. Trips to visit forest areas were more common among participants aged 20-39, males, individuals with low income, low education, and especially among individuals with forest-related occupations. Overnight trips were more common among males, and individual with forest-related occupations. Forty-five participants reported having confirmed malaria infection within the last year. The main place of malaria blood examination and treatment was malaria post and malaria clinic, with participants usually waiting for 2-3 days from onset fever to seeking diagnosis. Individuals using bed nets, living in houses with elevated floors, and houses that received indoor residual spraying in the last year were less likely to report malaria infection. Conclusion: An understanding of HPM and concurrent malaria dynamics is important for consideration of targeted public health interventions. Furthermore, diagnosis and treatment centres must be capable of quickly diagnosing and treating infections regardless of HPM. Coverage of diagnosis and treatment centres should be broad, maintained in areas bordering malaria hotspots, and available to all febrile individuals.

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Saita, S., Pan-Ngum, W., Phuanukoonnon, S., Sriwichai, P., Silawan, T., White, L. J., & Parker, D. M. (2019). Human population movement and behavioural patterns in malaria hotspots on the Thai-Myanmar border: Implications for malaria elimination. Malaria Journal, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-019-2704-3

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