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Greece in a battle with mosquito-borne diseases

The proboscis of an Aedes albopictus mosquito feeding on human blood.-CDC
The proboscis of an Aedes albopictus mosquito feeding on human blood.-CDC
CDC/James Gathany

The Southern European country of Greece has certainly seen their share of problems recently, whether it’s their well documented financial woes or the rise in violence against immigrants.

However, another issue has reared its ugly head in the Hellenic Republic- mosquito-borne diseases.

Malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus are back in Greece, and in the case of dengue fever, it is being seen for the first time in nearly a century.

According to a BBC report Tuesday, a man in his 80’s died from what is believed to be the first case of dengue fever in Greece since the 1920s.

Although it has yet to be confirmed, the elderly Agrinio resident had evidence of both West Nile and dengue fever in his blood according to the report.

In addition, he suffered from thrombocytopenia, or a low platelet count, a symptom of the potentially deadly dengue virus.

The Asian tiger mosquito, a vector of West Nile virus (WNV) seen in Europe, is also a vector for dengue fever.

In 2011, the Greek Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) reported 101 cases of WNV and 9 fatalities in the country.

According to the KEELPNO Weekly WNV Epidemiology report late last week, from the beginning of 2012 until August 30, 2012, 110 laboratory diagnosed cases of WNV infection have been reported to KEELPNO and 6 deaths, of which 76 presented with the more serious neuro-invasive disease (encephalitis and/or meningitis and/or acute flaccid paralysis) without a history of travel and 34 cases with mild symptoms (febrile syndrome).

In addition to dengue fever and WNV, malaria is back in Greece, after the country was deemed malaria free nearly four decades ago.

Dozens of cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria were reported last year, particularly in the Laconia district in the south of Greece.

During the first seven months of 2012, KEELPNO has received reports on at least 40 cases, with six cases being autochthonous, in other words, contracted in the country, as they had no travel history to an endemic country.

KEELPNO attributed the rise in malaria cases to climate conditions, the activity of mosquitoes, and a greater influx of immigrants. This prompted the watchdog to warn of a "real prospect" of the disease re-establishing itself in Greece.

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