HEALTH

Malaria Concerns in Dominican Republic after Deaths

MARTINEZ, CA - APRIL 09:  A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California. Unseasonably warm weather for Northern California in January appears to have brought  female mosquitos out of hibernation and have started to breed months ahead of the normal breeding season. Several groups of mosquitos found in a marsh near the Contra Costa County town of Martinez have tested positive for the West Nile Virus prompting county officials to do more testing and releasing mosquito fish in abandoned pools around the county.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MARTINEZ, CA - APRIL 09: A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California. Unseasonably warm weather for Northern California in January appears to have brought female mosquitos out of hibernation and have started to breed months ahead of the normal breeding season. Several groups of mosquitos found in a marsh near the Contra Costa County town of Martinez have tested positive for the West Nile Virus prompting county officials to do more testing and releasing mosquito fish in abandoned pools around the county. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

Health officials in the Dominican Republic are kicking off a public awareness campaign after a recent uptick of malaria deaths.

At least six people have died so far this year and an additional 500 cases have been reported, the majority of them in the Caribbean country's southern region, Health Minister Bautista Rojas said. A total of four malaria deaths were recorded in all of 2010.

Malaria is spread by infected mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water, and causes flu-like symptoms that can lead to death.

Some 100,000 health workers and volunteers are visiting impoverished communities around the capital of Santo Domingo this week to distribute pamphlets on how to prevent malaria and other diseases that are more common during the rainy season.

The Dominican Republic is also dealing with an outbreak of cholera, which has infected nearly 700 people and caused seven deaths. A cholera epidemic in neighboring Haiti has killed more than 4,000 people since October.

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Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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