Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Global health bodies have issued warnings to travellers to the worst hit region in the south of the country, with fears that Athens could soon be affected.Austerity budgets have resulted in drastic cutbacks in municipal spraying schemes to combat mosquito borne diseases.
In what is believed to be a first for Western Europe, Greece has experienced the first domestic cases of malaria since 1974.
Other mosquito-borne diseases that have slipped back into Greece include West Nile virus.
Statistics show that there were 70 instances of mosquito borne diseases in Greece in the first nine months of the year.
The vast majority were contracted abroad but more than 10 per cent were caught within the country. The disease was recorded in seven regions across the country.
Scientists have warned that it is a matter of time until the disease spreads to the capital, Athens. Only eight of 56 districts around Athens undertook anti-mosquito spraying this year.
The budget squeeze is getting worse with the Greek government under pressure to find another 11 billion euros in budget cuts to secure a Europe bail-out next month.
The American Centre for Disease Control last week warned travellers that the outbreak continues to grow. Visitors to the worst hit region, Evrotas, have been advised to take antimalarial pills.
Johan Giesecke, of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said the diseases should be part of the past in Europe. He said: “It’s a serious problem.”
Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), the international charity, is offering the sort of treatments it usually provides in sub-saharan Africa to southern Greece.
“For a European country, letting this kind of situation develop and not controlling it is a big concern,” says Apostolos Veizis, MSF’s director of medical-operational support in Greece.
“You can’t run after malaria. In a country in the European Union, we should not be running after a disease like this in emergency mode. Even in poorly-resourced countries in Africa, they have a national plan in place. What I expect from a country that is a member of the EU is at least that.”
Some 16 million tourists visit Greece each year and almost none will have researched the precautions necessary to prevent mosquito borne diseases.