Malaria Death of Young Girl Has Italian Authorities Mystified

'It's a mystery, almost impossible'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2017 5:55 PM CDT
Malaria Death of Young Girl Has Italian Authorities Mystified
A view of the "Spedali Civili" hospital in Brescia, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. Italy's health ministry has ordered an investigation into the death of a 4-year-old girl from malaria after checks determined she hadn't traveled to any country at risk for the disease.   (Filippo Venezia/ANSA via AP)

The death of a 4-year-old girl from malaria on Monday in Italy has local health authorities searching for answers and worrying about a resurgence of the deadly disease, NPR reports. Italy was declared malaria-free in 1970, and the mosquito that carries the disease no longer lives in the country. "It baffles us how she could have been infected,” NBC News quotes a doctor at a hospital in Trento as saying. Sofia Zago was brought to the hospital on Saturday with a high fever and quickly fell into a coma. Tests showed she had cerebral malaria, the deadliest form of the disease, and she died Monday after being moved to a hospital in Brescia. A doctor says it was the first case of native malaria he's seen in Trento in 30 years. "It's a mystery, almost impossible," the general manager of the provincial health service says regarding the case.

Doctors believe Sofia may have been infected during a trip to a beach resort near Venice. It's possible she was infected by a mosquito that had managed to travel to Italy inside of luggage. It's also possible, though very unlikely, Sofia contracted the disease a few weeks ago when she was hospitalized for childhood diabetes. The BBC reports there were two children at the hospital at the same time recovering from malaria they picked up in Africa, though they were in a different ward and Sofia received no blood transfusions. Italy's health ministry has ordered an investigation, according to the AP. While Europe was declared malaria-free in 2015, there have been several individual cases of locally transmitted malaria in recent years, including one in Rome in 2009. (After decades of work, a malaria vaccine is finally here.)

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