If I understand correctly, malaria is caused by a parasite that lives in mosquitoes and human beings. Servicemen returning to England carried the parasite which found a host in the local mosquito population.
I had heard of anti mosquito spraying on the Isle of Grain across the Medway, and friends had heard that our local council had done likewise on stretches of water around Sheerness, but I had always assumed it was just a summer precaution in a passing ship had an unwelcome visitor. However it would appear that malaria can be found in the indigenous population.
There have been no cases for nearly 50 years, so the risk seems to be extremely low, but with scorpions in the dockyard wall, who needs global warming to create a tropical paradise.
GLOBAL warming has been blamed for the huge expansion of a colony of mosquitoes in Britain.
Experts say a combination of warmer temperatures and prolonged rain is the reason for the large increase in numbers.
Residents living near the colony fear that the mosquitoes may cause an outbreak of malaria. They have been found on a marshland site on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent where a man died of malaria in l952, the last recorded death from the disease in this country. A team of research scientists from Durham University is conducting an urgent survey on the land near Queenborough.
A SPECIES of mosquito capable of carrying malaria has been found on Sheppey. But lifestyle changes and relatively cool temperatures mean it is unlikely the Island will be threatened with a new outbreak of the disease. The anpheles atroparvus mosquito was discovered breeding in marshes around Sheppey by research student Robert Hutchinson.
As reported in the Times Guardian last week, he has started a three-year research project into English malaria, focusing on Elmley and Queenborough. Part of his study will include carrying out fieldwork on Sheppey's marshes, investigating which breeds of mosquito are on the Island and whether they are capable of sparking a new outbreak of malaria.
"The questions I hope to address over the next three years are why did malaria decline in the UK, how prevalent are the mosquitoes which can transmit malaria, what types of habitat do mosquitoes prefer and what is the risk of malaria returning to the UK," he said.
There are 31 different species of mosquito in the UK, but only five are capable of transmitting malaria, but Mr Hutchinson's initial investigations have revealed at least one species, the anpheles atroparvus, living in Sheppey. He discovered them during a search of shelters, including pill-boxes and barns, around the marshes.
"It is highly unlikely that malaria could become indigenous in the UK again, mainly because things have changed in the past 100 years," said Mr Hutchinson, a medical entomologist based at Durham University
"You wouid need more mosquito and human contact. We do not have that any more because we have changed agricultural practice where we had lots of labourers working in the field.
"The interesting thing about Sheppey is that it was the last place to have an outbreak of malaria. There were 330 cases during the First World War whidh followed when soldiers were brought home from malaria infected countries.
"All next summer I will be looking at larvae sites and looking at how close those sites are to human habitation," Mr Hutchinson said.
The North Kent Marshes had always been an established area for mosquitoes, and climate change could make things worse, he warned.
"We might just have to learn to live with it, and put up mosquito nets at home." Cllr Val Dane (Lab, Queen-borough and Halfway) said there had been problems with mosquitoes in Queenborough all her life.
"It is not malaria we are worried about, it is the nuisance of mosquitoes," she said. Cllr Mick Constable (Lab, Queenborough and Halfway) said he was pleased that a research student from Durham University would be visiting the Island.