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Greece bans blood donations in 12 districts over Malaria

Twelve districts of Greece have banned blood donations because of malaria cases some of them to have been contracted domestically and the majority of them to be “imported.” Over the weekend, the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) and the National Center for Blood Donation both issued blood donation warnings in twelve districts affected.

The 12 districts affected are:

Farkadona, Trikala, Palamas, Tempe, Achaean and Thebes (central Greece); Evrotas and Andravida-Kyllini (Peloponnesus); Chalcida (Euboea); Marathon (Attica); and Lagada and Pylaia (Thessaloniki region).

According to KEELPNO data, 65 cases of malaria had been detected in Greece this year as of mid-August, compared to 85 for the whole of last year:

4 cases involved infection inside Greece
50 cases were among immigrants from the Indian subcontinent or seven African states
11 cases involved travellers returning from malaria-affected countries

Malaria was wiped out in Greece since 1974 but austerity budget cuts had municipal spraying schemes to combat mosquito-borne diseases being cut back. From 2010 – 2012 more than 15 people died from West Nile Virus and 173 were infected with the mosquito-borne disease. A man died in 2012 from Dengue Fever, a disease also transmitted by mosquitoes. Things got better after the spraying started again in summer 2012.

In 2011, domestically contracted malaria cases were 42 – there were 4 in 2010 and 7 in 2009.

Greece’ Ministry of Health sees the problem to be under control and said in a statement that “the number of imported cases of malaria were expected due to the big number of refugees/migrants who arrived in the country in recent times.”

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite called plasmodium which initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream and infecting the red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.

The parasites breed and burst out of red blood cells every 48 to 72 hours and each eruption of parasites is accompanied by a bout of fever, chills and sweating.

A single bite from the infected mosquito can transmit the disease to a human.

Because the malaria parasite is found in red blood cells of an infected person, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with malaria-infected blood. Therefore, there are stringent rules on blood donations from people who have been infected with malaria. In the US, for example, they may not donate blood for three years after treatment.

Malaria spread directly from human to human is rare.

Can malaria spread from one person to another?

Usually, no. In most cases, the malaria parasite has to first pass from a human host into a mosquito as the mosquito takes a blood meal, and then from the mosquito into another human via the mosquito’s saliva. This severely limits the amount of person-to-person transmission that exists. In fact, the only mechanisms for direct transmission between humans are when malaria parasites are passed between a mother and her unborn child via the placenta (congenital transmission) and through unscreened blood transfusions. (

According to BBC, “by comparison, the UK registered 1,400 cases of malaria in 2015, all of them imported.”

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One comment

  1. It’s obvious that Greece is vulnerable to malaria, as the disease was widespread here for millennia. It’s also obvious that it will return, if no effort is made to prevent it (i.e. spend money). It’s even more obvious that the government will deny that there is a problem in order not to damage tourism — and will continue denying it until Greeks are filling the hospitals with serious malaria cases.
    Given these three obvious facts, welcome to malaria in Greece.