Is malaria a problem in Europe?


Malaria is probably a condition you’d associate more with the far flung, exotic countries of the world, and not something we suffer with too much in Europe.

In a way, you’d be right. The last statistics collected by the World Health Organisation showed that there were only 37 cases of malaria in Europe, and they were recorded in Turkey, Tajikistan and Greece. However, since Greece and Turkey are both popular destinations for Brits heading off on holiday, we do still need to be aware of the risks.

Let’s look at the basics of this nasty illness. Malaria is preventable, and curable – if caught in time. You catch it from female mosquitoes which are infected with a parasite called Plasmodium, which they then pass on to humans when they bite them.

If you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, and you’re in one of the at risk areas, you need to be aware of the symptoms. They’ll start showing up one to two weeks after you’re bitten by the infected mosquito. They may seem fairly innocent at first, and could be easily confused with something else – a high temperature, chills, vomiting and a headache. If you notice these symptoms, you should consult a doctor straight away. Remember to show your EHIC to ensure that you get reduced cost treatment. If you’ve not got one, apply now.

Prevention is clearly better than cure but renew your EHIC just in case. There are some steps you can take to stop the mosquitoes getting you in the first place. Speak to your GP before you travel, and see if they can provide you with anti-malarial medication before you travel. Some of these drugs require you to start taking them before you depart, to allow them to get into your system effectively, so don’t delay. You can also purchase a mosquito net to sleep under, or a repellent spray to put on the exposed parts of your body which stops the mosquitos from coming near you.

The World Health Organisation are on track to eliminate malaria across Europe, so with a little vigilance, malaria will hopefully become an obsolete condition in all of our popular holiday destinations.

Photo: Mosquito by Gamma Man licensed under Creative commons 2