The 2015-2016 malaria epidemic in Northern Uganda; What are the implications for malaria control interventions?

Acta Trop. 2018 Dec;188:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2018.08.023. Epub 2018 Aug 23.


Vector control and effective case management are currently the backbone strategies of malaria control. Kitgum district, an area of perennial holoendemic malaria transmission intensity in Northern Uganda, appears to have experienced a malaria epidemic in 2015. This study aimed to describe the malaria trends in Kitgum General Hospital from 2011 to 2017 in relation to climatic factors and the application of population-based malaria control interventions. Hospital records were examined retrospectively to calculate malaria normal channels, malaria cases per 1000 population, test positivity rates (TPR) and to enumerate pregnancy malaria, hospitalizations and deaths. Climatic factors (humidity, temperature and rainfall) and population-based malaria control interventions that had been applied during this period were described. Kitgum district experienced an epidemic between the years 2015 and 2016; the malaria burden rose above the established normal channels. At its peak the number of malaria cases attending KGH was over 20 times above the normal channels. The total number of cases per 1000 population increased from 7 in 2014 to 113 in 2015 and 114 in 2016 (p value for trend <0.0001). Similarly, TPR increased from 10.5% to 54.6% between 2014 and 2016 (p value for trend <0.0001). This trend was also observed for malaria attributable hospitalizations, and malaria in pregnancy. There were no significant changes in any of the climatic factors assessed (p value = 0.92, 0.99, 0.52 for relative humidity, max temperature, and rainfall, respectively). The malaria upsurge occurred in conjunction with a general decline in the use and application of malaria control interventions. Specifically, indoor residual spraying was interrupted in 2014. In response to the epidemic, IRS was reapplied together with mass distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) in 2017. Subsequently, there was a decline in all malaria indicators. The epidemic in Kitgum occurred in association with the interruption of IRS and appears to have abated following its re-introduction alongside LLINs. The study suggests that to enable malaria elimination in areas of high malaria transmission intensity, effective control measures may need to be sustained for the long-term.

Keywords: IRS; Malaria elimination; Malaria epidemiology; Resurgence; Vector control.

MeSH terms

  • Epidemics
  • Humans
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Mosquito Control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Uganda / epidemiology