Integrated surveillance and control program for West Nile virus and malaria in Greece

The initial meeting of the Integrated Surveillance and Control Program for West Nile Virus and Malaria in Greece, funded by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013, took place on 26–27 January 2012 in Athens, Greece. The co-ordinator of the project is Professor Christos Hadjichristodoulou (Laboratory of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, University of Thessaly).

Seventy-seven experts participated in the meeting; 26 of them were collaborating partners, and 46 of them worked at services or organizations related to program issues [Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP), Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Hellenic Ministry of Rural Development and Food and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)], while five of them were European malaria experts.

The meeting began with a presentation related to the project structure by the project co-ordinator. Then HCDCP representatives continued with a presentation of the malaria national action plan and updated data for malaria and West Nile virus (WNV) in Greece, and private pest management companies with a presentation of  entomological data collected for 2011. Finally, the European experts presented a risk assessment and new developments regarding malaria laboratory diagnosis and genotyping and difficulties in screening and treating immigrants for malaria.

At the end of presentations, participants were divided into five working groups (WG) as described below.

  • WG1: vectors of WNV and malaria
  • WG2: WNV in wild and captured birds and equines
  • WG3: malaria and WNV, laboratory diagnosis in humans, sero-epidemiological survey for WNV in samples from different parts of Greece
  • WG4: Malaria and WNV, surveillance in humans, diagnosis and treatment, training of medical doctors
  • WG5: malaria and WNV, immigrant screening, sero-epidemiological study in Lakonia, information, communication, education

A plenary session took place at the end of second day and the final conclusions were as follows.

  • A WG will be established regarding a geographic information system (GIS) that will consist of co-ordinator Professor Hadjichristodoulou and suggested members Mr Bitsolas, Professor Tsatsaris, Mr Giannakopoulos and representatives from HCDCP.
  • The importance of mapping mosquito habitats and mosquito sampling in high-risk areas.
  • The importance of the surveillance of birds and equines for WNV transmission.
  • The value of educational campaigns for the public, high-risk groups and health professionals related to the control and treatment of the two diseases.
  • The importance of screening and treatment of immigrants at points of entry, mostly of immigrants arriving from endemic countries.
  • The significance of the opinions, knowledge and experience of experts in all the WG.
  • The need for a survey of the usefulness of interventions for immigrants (mass prophylaxis, serological study, etc.).
  • The importance of integrating mosquito management programs indoors (stables, temporary rest areas, etc.) and the use of bed nets.

 

Persa Tserkezou, Researcher, Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Thessaly