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Rare malaria case causes death of young girl in Italy

The death of a 4-year-old girl in Italy is puzzling doctors as mosquito-borne disease malaria is confirmed to be the cause

5 September 2017, 4:16pm
A 4-year-old girl has died of a severe form of malaria in Italy, raising fears that the mosquito-borne disease has returned to the country after nearly half a century.

Sofia Zago developed a high-grade fever after returtning home from a holiday in the northern city of Bibione, a resort near Venice.

As her condition worsened, she was rushed to hospital in the northern city of Trento and fell into a coma within an hour. She was then diagnosed with malaria. Zago was transferred to a hospital in Brescia, which treats tropical diseases and illnesses, but died on Sunday evening.

The girl had never travelled to a risk-prone country, raising concerns about how she contracted the disease.

Claudio Paternoster, head of the infectious diseases ward at the hospital of Trento told the Italian daily Corriere della SerraL: “from what we know, there are no mosquitoes in Italy carrying malaria. We will have to investigate this”.

During his 30-year long career, he had never come across a case of “indigenous malaria”, said Paternoster.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed that it had dispatched a team of experts to establish how Zago contracted the disease.

Italy has been clear of malaria since the 1950’s, with most recorded cases being linked to those travelling from countries where it is common.

Paternoster speculated whether climate change could be to blame. “It was a long and very hot summer” he said.

The WHO says Italy could be vulnerable to a return of malaria if mosquitoes are not properly controlled.

Malaria is caused by a parasite that has a complex life cycle dependent on both animals, including humans, and mosquitoes.