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Swiss Man Dies After Catching Malaria from Stowaway Mosquito

July 31, 1996

GENEVA (AP) _ A Swiss postal worker has died of malaria after being bitten by a mosquito brought into the country on an airplane _ a rare incident because most insects carrying the tropical disease don’t survive the trip.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday it was the first time someone had died from malaria in Switzerland.

Dr. Robert Kouznetsov, of WHO’s malaria unit, said that worldwide only 50 people in the past 20 years have been infected by mosquitoes brought by ship or plane.

Usually, such mosquitoes die _ either from insecticide routinely sprayed on planes from tropical Asia or Africa, or from the colder weather.

In the Swiss case, the insect survived the insecticide and was kept alive by unusually warm temperatures in Geneva in early July. It was not known from which country the mosquito came.

The 54-year-old man, whose identity was not released, lived about a half-mile from Geneva’s international airport.

The postal worker had a virulent case of malaria, with muscle pains and tiredness. He became ill July 10 but did not see a doctor for several days. He was treated for malaria once he arrived at a Geneva hospital, but the treatment was too late. He died July 16.

The man had never traveled abroad or received a blood transfusion, making it most likely he was infected by a mosquito here, said Elena Pagano, an epidemiologist with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

Europeans are susceptible, said Kouznetsov, because they ``have no exposure to malaria, and thus no immunity, so they can die very quickly.″

He said the postal worker was ``most probably the only victim,″ but two or three more people could have been infected if the mosquito had laid eggs or bitten others.

In 1989, five people living near the airport contracted malaria but did not die.

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