LONDON Nov 23 Greek authorities must urgently
step up control of mosquitoes and surveillance of infected
people to stop malaria from re-establishing itself in the
crisis-hit country, scientists said on Friday.
Writing in online journal Eurosurveillance, they said recent
outbreaks of the disease in the southern regions of Lakonia and
East Attica were worrying.
Tackling malaria requires measures such as insecticide
spraying, eliminating standing water and tracking mosquito
populations as well as people infected with the disease.
"It is clear that surveillance and vector control programmes
should be strengthened and rapidly intensified," said the study,
led by researchers at the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control
and Prevention (HCDCP) in Athens.
Greece's healthcare system is under extreme pressure from
budget cuts, and experts fear groups such as the poor,
unemployed or homeless, many of them immigrants, are not getting
treatment they need.
Malaria, which causes high fever and chills and kills
hundreds of thousands of people a year worldwide, was once
endemic in Greece but was officially eliminated in 1974.
Most cases since then have been imported by travellers,
mainly from Africa and Asia.
But Greece has established populations of potentially
malarial mosquito species, and last year, 40 cases of
locally-acquired malaria were reported, mainly in Lakonia and
Between January 1 and October 22 this year Greece reported
75 cases in total, 16 of which were locally acquired.
Other mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus
carried by Culex modestus mosquitoes, also occur in Greece.
Apostolos Veizis, director of medical-operational support
for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Greece, warned in a statement
earlier this month that any malaria plan could not work properly
unless access to healthcare was available to all.
"It is very important to monitor the situation and invest in
mosquito control," he said. "But medically speaking if people
cannot be examined and properly diagnosed, it's easy to lose
sight of the problem."
The HCDCP experts said a coordinated effort had begun with
the collaboration of Greek authorities, the European Centre for
Disease Prevention and Control and World Health Organisation
(WHO) experts to prevent malaria returning.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Andrew Roche)