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Mosquitoes, Malaria and Bella Italy!

Puglia was devastated by MalariaIn preparation for my upcoming holiday to south Italy I was browsing through the history section in my guide book to Puglia and discovered some fascinating facts about how mosquitoes had devastated entire communities.

The endemic and epidemic presence of malaria in Italy has shaped the history and development of this beautiful country, but especially the south, often seen as the poorer relation of the more prosperous north.

It was only after the unification of Italy in 1861, that the ever-growing presence of malaria in the country came to light. In the rural south, where bad working conditions and sub-standard housing and diet were already present, malaria was able to spread easily and quickly. There were few ways of getting rid of mosquitoes.

In fact, malaria touched so many lives, that for a long period it was widely regarded as the ‘Italian national disease’. Unfortunately it was Italy’s most fertile areas, by the coast and in river valleys, which were most susceptible to the infection. Workers had to expose themselves to this disease in order to make a living, and would run the risk ill health which ultimately led to low productivity.

Anopheles mosquitoOther interesting facts:

  • The word malaria comes from the Italian word mal aria meaning “bad air” .This was because people thought the air was poisoned when the wet earth dried out during the heat of the summer days.
  • It was an Italian Zoologist named Giovanni Battista Grassi, who discovered in 1898 that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Did you know that the term “kingdom of death” was used to refer to the South of Italy at one point? This was because out of all the provinces in the Italian peninsula, the six most badly affected, including Puglia, were located in the south. It is said that the danger of infection in the south was ten times greater than in the north.
  • Between 1900 and 1907 the Italian government set a worldwide precedent by passing a series of laws to establish a national campaign to control malaria.
  • It was only in 1969 that the designation of ‘malarial zone’ was officially lifted from the Italian peninsula

I cannot wait to go and visit this part of Italy. I have no doubt that it will be as beautiful as the rest of the country. Although the area in no longer malarial I will be taking precautions against mosquitoes.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Very interesting facts about Malaria.

  2. Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    That´s very interesting, I didn´t know that a country like Italy had been affected so badly by this disease

  3. Lucy
    Posted August 11, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I visited Puglia for a wedding in Sept 2012 it was beautiful but so many mosquitos and I was wearing repellant but I was bitten 30 times in one eve and sadly I became poorly I had contracted Lyme disease, from the bites in Italy and they were not tick bites!!! I don’t know about Malaria being the worry now but certainly Lyme disease as many probably don’t know perhaps this is an area where this disease is spreading?

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