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A Guide to Malaria Incidence and Control in Papua New Guinea and Kokoda


Trekking the iconic Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a thrilling adventure that takes you through lush landscapes and historical sites. While the journey is awe-inspiring, it’s crucial for prospective trekkers to be well-informed about the risk of malaria in the region. This comprehensive guide aims to provide essential information on malaria, its prevalence, and strategies to stay safe while hiking the Kokoda Trail.

Understanding Malaria in Papua New Guinea

Malaria Incidence and Risk

PNG has a significant malaria burden, with both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax being prevalent. The risk of malaria varies across regions, and understanding the epidemiology is essential for a safe trekking experience.

National Malaria Control Program

PNG has implemented a robust National Malaria Control Program to combat the transmission of malaria. This program involves various control interventions, including the use of long-lasting insecticidal nets and targeted strategies for young Papua New Guinean children.

Malaria Transmission Dynamics

Anopheles Punctulatus Complex

The Anopheles punctulatus complex plays a crucial role in malaria transmission in PNG. Understanding the dynamics of this mosquito complex is essential for assessing the risk of malaria in specific areas, including the Kokoda Trail.

Environmental Drivers

Environmental factors significantly contribute to malaria transmission. Trekkers should be aware of the environmental drivers, such as climate and geography, that influence the distribution of malaria in PNG.

Regional Variances in Malaria Incidence

Variations in Different Provinces

Malaria incidence can vary widely between provinces. Trekkers must be aware of the prevalence of malaria in the specific regions they plan to visit. The Papua New Guinea National Department of Health provides valuable information on malaria incidence at the provincial level.

High-Risk Areas

Certain regions, such as the highlands of Papua New Guinea, may have a higher risk of malaria. Understanding the spatial patterns of malaria transmission is crucial for assessing the risk in different areas along the Kokoda Trail.

Strategies for Malaria Prevention

Malaria Control Interventions

To ensure a safe trekking experience, it’s vital to adopt malaria control interventions recommended by health authorities. This includes the use of insecticidal nets and adherence to malaria case management guidelines.

Advice for Trekkers

Trekkers are advised to seek advice from local health authorities and take necessary precautions. This includes taking prophylactic medications, using mosquito repellent, and wearing long sleeves and pants to minimize mosquito bites.

Research and Ongoing Efforts

New Guinea Institute of Medical Research

The New Guinea Institute of Medical Research actively contributes to the understanding of malaria in PNG. Ongoing research focuses on epidemiology, spatial prediction, and changes in malaria patterns.

Rotarians Against Malaria

Organizations like Rotarians Against Malaria contribute to the scale-up of malaria control interventions. Their efforts aim to reduce the incidence of malaria in catchment areas and promote malaria elimination.


Trekking the Kokoda Track is a remarkable experience, but being aware of the malaria risk in Papua New Guinea is crucial for a safe and enjoyable journey. By understanding the epidemiology, adopting prevention strategies, and staying informed about ongoing efforts, trekkers can navigate the Kokoda Trail with confidence and appreciation for the rich history and natural beauty of the region.


Q: What is the epidemiology of malaria in Papua New Guinea (PNG)?

A: Malaria is highly endemic in PNG, with varying prevalence rates across different regions. The transmission of malaria is influenced by factors such as climate, geography, and human behaviour, leading to a complex epidemiology.

Q: What is the malaria prevalence in PNG?

A: The malaria prevalence in PNG is among the highest in the Western Pacific Region, with varying rates across different provinces and islands.

Q: How is malaria stratified in PNG?

A: Malaria in PNG is stratified based on geographical locations, with some areas experiencing higher infection rates than others. The stratification helps in targeting control measures effectively.

Q: What is the burden of malaria in PNG?

A: Malaria poses a substantial burden on public health in PNG, especially in remote and rural areas. It affects the population’s health and economic productivity.

Q: What is the distribution of malaria in PNG?

A: Malaria is distributed unevenly across PNG, with higher prevalence in certain regions such as New Britain and other coastal areas, as well as in the highlands.

Q: How is malaria control implemented in Papua New Guinea?

A: Malaria control in PNG involves various strategies such as the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying, and access to effective antimalarial drugs. Additionally, targeted interventions aim to address specific challenges in different regions.

Q: What is the role of the Anopheles punctulatus complex in malaria transmission in PNG?

A: The Anopheles punctulatus complex is a significant vector of malaria in PNG, contributing to the transmission of the disease in various ecological settings, including coastal, highland, and inland areas.

Q: What are the key findings from the Malaria Indicator Survey in PNG?

A: The Malaria Indicator Survey in PNG provides crucial insights into the prevalence, risk factors, and effectiveness of malaria control interventions, guiding the formulation and adaptation of malaria control strategies.

Q: How is malaria prevalence spatially predicted in PNG?

A: Spatial prediction models are used to estimate malaria prevalence across different regions of PNG, utilizing data on environmental factors, human population, and past malaria incidence to create predictive maps.

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities for tuberculosis and malaria co-control efforts in PNG?

A: Co-control efforts for tuberculosis and malaria in PNG face challenges related to resource constraints, health system capacity, and coordination. However, opportunities exist for integrated interventions that address both diseases simultaneously, leveraging common platforms and resources.

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