Malaria: great progress towards elimination, but persistent threat of imported cases and reintroduction

The WHO European Region aims to interrupt the transmission of malaria and eliminate the disease by 2015.

The number of reported locally acquired cases has dropped dramatically: from 90 712 cases reported in 1995 to only 37 in 2013, reported in Greece, Tajikistan and Turkey. Nevertheless, 5000 cases were imported into the Region in 2013, and the threat of reintroduction of the disease remains.

Vector surveillance and control, and the early detection of cases in human beings are vital to prevent the reintroduction and re-establishment of mosquitoes, and the spread of the diseases they carry.

On World Malaria Day, 25 April 2014, WHO is launching a manual to help countries assess the technical, operational and financial feasibility of moving towards malaria elimination.

Countries certified malaria free

Eliminating malaria from the Region by 2015 is a realistic and attainable goal. Of the 9 European countries with continuing transmission in 2000, 3 have been certified free of malaria (Turkmenistan in 2010, Armenia in 2011 and Kazakhstan in 2012) and 3 (Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) are in the prevention-of-reintroduction phase, having reported 0 indigenous cases for the past 3 years or more. Azerbaijan interrupted transmission of malaria in 2013. The remaining 2 countries (Tajikistan and Turkey) have reduced cases by more than 75%.

Threat of malaria reintroduction

Greece, which had remained malaria free between 1974 and 2010, reported 3 locally acquired malaria cases in 2010, 40 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. In 2013, 3 locally acquired cases were detected. This experience highlights the continual threat of reintroduction and the need for continued vigilance to ensure that any resurgence can be rapidly contained.

Imported cases

At present, imported malaria is a significant medical and health issue in many European countries where the disease has been successfully eliminated. Around 5000 imported malaria cases are reported annually in the Region, but the magnitude of the problem is thought to be much greater than statistics indicate.

World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day, 25 April, is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment in and sustained political commitment to malaria control and elimination. The theme for the 2013–2015 campaign is “Invest in the future: defeat malaria”.

There were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria in 2012, causing over 600 000 deaths.