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WHO: European Region World’s First Malaria-Free

FILE - An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters, Nov. 23, 2015.

In 2015, for the first time, all the countries in the European region reported no original cases of malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its annual report released Wednesday ahead of World Malaria Day 2016 on April 25.

From 1995 to 2015, the number of so-called indigenous or locally transmitted malaria cases dropped from 90,712 to zero in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which constitute the WHO’s European region.

In 2015, there were an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths worldwide, according to the WHO, most of them in the African Region (90 percent), followed by the South-East Asia Region (7 percent) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2 percent).

Case importation risk

The WHO recognizes however, that the European region remains prone of a reappearance of the disease due to importation of cases from areas of the world where malaria is endemic.

Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said that “until malaria is eradicated globally, people travelling to and from malaria-endemic countries can import the disease to Europe, and we have to keep up the good work to prevent its reintroduction".

Maintaining zero cases in the European Region will require sustained political commitment, resources and constant vigilance, the WHO said.

The region was last declared malaria free in 1975.