Europe declared malaria-free "but still vulnerable"

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The World Health Organization said the turning point for Europe was a decision by several governments in 2005 to cooperate on anti-malaria measures. Photo: WHO

A significant victory in the global battle against malaria has been announced with the news that Europe is now free of the disease, UN health experts said Wednesday.

According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), the number of malaria cases in Europe dropped from almost 91,000 in 1995 to zero last year.

WHO has urged European health authorities not to drop their guard, however, as a single imported case could lead to a resurgence of the disease.

Here's Daniel Johnson in Geneva.

The news that malaria has been beaten in Europe is being hailed as "extraordinary" by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It's a significant and symbolic achievement because Europe is the first region to eradicate the disease as part of a new UN-led strategy to wipe out malaria globally.

Speaking ahead of World Malaria Day 2016 (on Monday, 25 April), WHO's Dr Nedret Emiroglu warned that the continent will remain vulnerable until the disease is beaten globally.

"There's always a risk of importation, which we have experienced in the past, a resurgence happened and we don't want this to happen. So all our target is to keep to zero and to have even more vigilance to continue with the surveillance …with continued interventions for vector control."

UN health experts say that the turning point for Europe came in 2005 when malaria-affected countries in the Caucasus, central Asia and the Russian Federation agreed to do more to beat the disease together.

The disease, which is preventable, causes fever and organ failure. Last year, globally, it killed more than 400,000 people. Africa accounts for 90 per cent of all cases.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'11"


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