The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that Europe has become the world’s first region to completely eradicate malaria, with zero cases reported last year.
The number of malaria cases in Europe has dropped from 90,712 in 1995, to zero cases last year. The most recent case of indigenous transmission was reported in Tajikistan in 2014.
The malaria-free status has been achieved through strong political commitment, improved detection and surveillance of malaria cases, integrated strategies for mosquito control with community involvement, cross-border collaboration and communication to people at risk.
WHO said that the authorities must not drop their guard, as people travelling to and from malaria-endemic countries can import the disease to Europe.
WHO Europe communicable diseases and health security director Dr Nedret Emiroglu said: "Experience shows that malaria can spread rapidly, and, if Europe’s countries are not vigilant and responsive, a single imported case can result in resurgence of malaria."
Last year alone, nearly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths were reported worldwide.
Through the Tashkent Declaration in 2005, all affected European countries have pledged to eradicate malaria in the region by last year.
The declaration led to the new regional strategy, which helped these countries in reducing the number of malaria cases.
When a country has no locally acquired malaria cases for at least three consecutive years, it is eligible for official certification of malaria elimination by WHO.
During the time when WHO has declared Europe malaria-free, medical and travel security company International SOS found that travellers from Europe are ten times more likely to contract the disease.
Europeans are more likely to carry no ‘natural immunity’ to the disease, thereby raising the risk of death from the disease.