Malaria Returns To Greece In The Middle Of Crisis

Malaria has returned to Greece after a 40 year hiatus, with more than 70 cases contracted outside of the country and a minimum of 12 people infected inside the country

The numbers of malaria cases are enough to concern health workers because it may now be considered an endemic to Greece and not just travelers passing through, NPRreports.

A statement released by the U.S. Centers of Disease and Prevention last week said the parasite is appearing in regions where it has never been reported to have done so in the past.

So what is causing the sudden outbreak of malaria in Greece? As the budget has taken a dismal turn for the worse, health services have been suffering as a result. Medication shortages in the country have also resulted in hike of HIV cases during the last year.

The cuts in public health could be a contributing factor to why malaria has reappeared, says Doctor Apostolos Veizis, the director of Doctors Without Borders in Greece. He said many of the municipalities near Athens did not have sufficient funds to spray for mosquitoes.

The spike in malaria cases may not solely be because of budgetary issues. For starters, winters have been much warmer than in the past, which may lengthen the malaria season.

In 1974, Greece was declared malaria-free and since then only a few cases have been reported. However in 2011, a large cluster of cases began showing up in southern Greece, where 27 became infected.

Doctors Without Borders were prompted to set up clinics in the Sparta region after a number of cases were reported.

The doctors have been distributing insect repellent along with educating community members. Veizis said early treatment is the best bet to stop the spread of the disease. He believes the efforts are working.