In a piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper Jon Henley reports on how cutbacks to Greek health services have led to a sharp rise in communicable diseases in the country. It’s a sobering piece, and I recommend all philhellenes to read it and to consider donating to Médecins sans Frontières Greece or other medical agencies working here. However, I also want to add a word of reassurance for those considering visiting Greece this year. The article says that malaria has become endemic in Greece — which seems pretty frightening. But, while true, the claim isn’t as scary as it sounds. ‘Endemic’ simply means that cases of the disease have been contracted in the country, rather than carried in from abroad; it doesn’t mean that the disease is running riot. In fact, there have been very few cases of malaria in Greece, and most of them have been confined to a farming region in the south of the Peloponnese, where conditions particularly favour the disease. (The phrase ‘south of the country’, used in the article, means ‘south of the mainland’, not the southern islands, such as Crete.) For more details, see this article in the journal Eurosurveillance and this update from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. There is some information on action being taken to combat the outbreak in this report by the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Google translation here). See also the UK’s National Health Service advice page on Greece.
Of course, one should not be complacent, and all visitors should check the latest travel advice issued by their government. Moreover, we should all heed Jon Henley’s warnings about effects of cutbacks in the Greek health services. But as a Greek resident with a young family, I am not worried about malaria, and I continue to encourage my family and friends to visit this beautiful country.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Finisterre67.