Background: Moving from malaria control to elimination requires national malaria control programmes to implement strategies to detect both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases in the community. In order to do this, malaria elimination programmes follow up malaria cases reported by health facilities to carry out case investigations that will determine the origin of the infection, whether it has been imported or is due to local malaria transmission. If necessary, the malaria programme will also carry out active surveillance to find additional malaria cases in the locality to prevent further transmission. To understand current practices and share information on malaria elimination strategies, a survey specifically addressing country policies on case investigation and reactive case detection was carried out among fourteen countries of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN).
Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to the malaria control programme managers amongst 14 countries in the Asia Pacific who have national or sub-national malaria elimination goals.
Results: Results indicate that there are a wide variety of case investigation and active case detection activities employed by the 13 countries that responded to the survey. All respondents report conducting case investigation as part of surveillance activities. More than half of these countries conduct investigations for each case. Over half aim to accomplish the investigation within one to two days of a case report. Programmes collect a broad array of demographic data during investigation procedures and definitions for imported cases are varied across respondents. Some countries report intra-national (from a different province or district) importation while others report only international importation (from a different country). Reactive case detection in respondent countries is defined as screening households within a pre-determined radius in order to identify other locally acquired infections, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. Respondents report that reactive case detection can be triggered in different ways, in some cases with only a single case report and in others if a defined threshold of multiple cases occurs. The spatial range of screening conducted varies from a certain number of households to an entire administrative unit (e g, village). Some countries target symptomatic people whereas others target all people in order to detect asymptomatic infections. The majority of respondent programmes collect a range of information from those screened for malaria, similar to the range of information collected during case investigation.
Conclusion: Case investigation and reactive case detection are implemented in the malaria elimination programmes in the Asia Pacific, however practices vary widely from country to country. There is little evidence available to support countries in deciding which methods to maintain, change or adopt for improved effectiveness and efficiency. The development and use of common evaluation metrics for these activities will allow malaria programmes to assess performance and results of resource-intensive surveillance measures and may benefit other countries that are considering implementing these activities.