Europe has become the world’s first malaria-free region, with zero cases reported last year, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, in its annual report, ahead of World malaria day on April
Europe has become the world’s first malaria-free region, with zero cases reported last year, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, in its annual report, ahead of World malaria day on April 25.
According to the report, the number of indigenous malaria cases dropped to zero in 2015 from 90,712 in 1995, with the last cases being reported in Tajikistan in 2014. “This is a major milestone in Europe’s public health history and in the efforts to eliminate malaria globally,” said Mr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe.
The WHO credited strong political commitment, improved detection, cross border collaboration and constant vigilance contributing to the wiping out of mosquito borne menace from Europe.
However, the good news comes with a word of caution, experts say “Until malaria is eradicated globally, people travelling to and from malaria-endemic countries can import the disease to Europe, and we have to keep up the good work to prevent its reintroduction,” Mr Jakab added. In 2015, there were 214 million cases and out of an estimated 4,38,000 malaria deaths worldwide, most of them reported in African Region (90 per cent), followed by the South-East Asia Region (7 per cent) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2 per cent).
Earlier too in 1975, Europe was declared malaria-free, but the disease later re-emerged in the Caucasus, Central Asian republics, the Russian Federation and Turkey. Although efforts to control the disease have made significant progress in the last 15 years, that progress is threatened by mosquitoes’ growing resistance to antimalarial drugs and to insecticide, the WHO said in its World Malaria Report 2015.
“Experience shows that malaria can spread rapidly and, if Europe’s countries are not vigilant and responsive, a single imported case can result in resurgence of malaria,” said Mr Nedret Emiroglu, director of communicable diseases and health security, WHO regional office for Europe.