TRAT: Eleven people in two districts have caught a strain of malaria that primarily infected macaques, governor Chamnanwit Terat said on Monday.
The province is on high alert after health authorities revealed that Trat, along with Songkhla and Ranong in the South, accounted for the most infections by the Plasmodium knowlesi parasite.
Nine of the infections were reported on Koh Chang, while the rest were in Bo Rai district. The majority of the patients, according to the governor, lived and/or worked near forests.
Mr Chamnanwit said although they have since recovered, they have been asked to remain vigilant to prevent further community transmission.
From Oct 1 last year to March 31, 70 people have fallen sick from the malaria-causing parasite.
P. knowlesi, like other malaria-causing parasites, can only be spread by its vector -- Anopheles mosquitos.
The parasite was initially thought to be specific to long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques until 2004, when researchers in Sarawak, Malaysia found it was able to infect humans.
Mr Chamnanwut said the provincial administration is planning to raise public awareness about the threat from P. knowlesi.
Residents living near forested areas are now advised to apply mosquito repellents before heading out, and sleep with mosquito nets covering them to prevent being infected.
The Department of Disease Control is also warning residents living near the habitat of wild macaques to take extra precaution.
Dusit Samuttrakapong, chief of Koh Chang national park, said at least 1,000 long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques live on Koh Chang, which is popular with tourists.