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News Article

From New Scientist


Tropical Killer Flies North

DATELINE: September 11, 1999

SECTION: This Week, Pg. 14

BYLINE: Debora MacKenzie

FIVE cases of malaria among people who have never been to a region where the disease is endemic have revived fears that it is returning to Europe and North America.

Three of the cases were in Luxembourg, all within a few kilometres of the country's international airport. They were probably caused by mosquitoes that had stowed away on aircraft flying in from the tropics. Sporadic cases have occurred near European airports before, but incidents are becoming more common as air travel and global warming increase.

Robert Hemmer of Luxembourg's National Service for Infectious Diseases notes that the last cases of airport malaria in the country, in 1997, occurred during hot weather similar to that in Europe this summer. Luxembourg is now considering spraying more aircraft with insecticide on arrival.

The other two cases, in New York state in the US, highlight the concern that local mosquitoes can acquire the parasite from humans and continue the chain of infection. Two boy scouts who attended a summer camp near wetland in Long Island developed malaria in late August. Mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite were found near the camp. They were probably infected after biting someone who had carried the disease from the tropics. The whole area was sprayed and all 1500 members of the camp were traced and warned of the risk.

Until the 19th century, malaria was endemic in much of North America, and in Europe it reached as far north as Britain. All the latest cases have responded to treatment, but the Malaria Foundation International, a research network based in London, estimates that 300 children in the tropics die of the disease every hour.

For more science news see New Scientist.

Webmaster's Note:This article notes potential for transport of malaria from endemic areas to currently non-endemic areas. Please note that Luxembourg [as well as other countries in western Europe] and the United States have not demonstrated continuous malaria transmission at this time. There have been instances of sporadic locally transmitted cases in these countries during the 1980s and 1990s but transmission has not carried over through the winter.

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