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Yelena Kiselyov of Nahariya, 29, who came down with malaria while working as a nurse in Equatorial Guinea, died this weekend in a hospital in Nahariya. Kiselyov was hospitalized for the past week in critical condition in the intensive care unit following complications from the disease. At the end of last week her doctors had to perform artificial respiration to stabilize her condition and later Kiselyov was treated with a medication against the malaria parasite. But on Saturday she went into organ failure and died.

For the past two years Kiselyov worked as a nurse in Africa, but she did not regularly take a drug treatment to prevent malaria while she was there. Kiselyov came down with malaria originating in the Plasmodium falciparum species of mosquito, which causes a serious form of malaria liable to damage internal organs including the brain, lungs and kidneys. The disease is not transmitted from one human to another, but rather by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

This year a dramatic rise has been registered in the number of malaria patients diagnosed in Israel.

According to figures from the Ministry of Health's epidemiology department, from the start of 2010 until the beginning of October, 153 new cases of malaria were reported - 5.6 times more than in the parallel period in 2009. Among the new cases this year, 95 patients were diagnosed in the Southern District - of whom 94 were labor migrants who came form African countries where the disease is active.

There were also 57 more cases in other districts, the large majority of them involving labor migrants from countries where the disease is active.

In recent years in Israel, on average every month one malaria patient in serious condition is hospitalized in intensive care, in addition to the lighter cases hospitalized in internal medicine departments. Nevertheless, death from malaria is considered very unusual in Israel. In April of this year a 54-tear-old Israeli man was hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in serious condition with brain damage after coming down with malaria from a falciparum mosquito while he was in Liberia. At the hospital they succeeded in stabilizing his condition. Six years ago a 63-year-old Tel Aviv resident died at Beilinson Hospital in Tel Aviv after contracting malaria in Africa.

Half not given treatment

In a survey carried out by the Medical Association for Tropical Diseases three years ago, it was found that half of those who received advice and inoculations at clinics before traveling to areas where malaria is active did not receive exact orders to take the preventative treatment against the disease as required; 32 percent of them were travelers to Africa.

Moreover, 12 percent of the travelers who were given prescription for medication to prevent malaria did not take them.

The Ministry of Health wrote in a statement that the increase is "artificial...Labor migrants and refugees arriving in Israel when they are ill with malaria account for more than 80 percent of the cases. According to studies by the health bureaus, all the patients were infected outside of Israel. The Ministry has no data concerning the taking of preventative treatment by Israelis who leave for countries where malaria is endemic. Not every trip to an endemic country requires preventative treatment and individual consultation is needed for every traveler at the clinics run by the Health Ministry and other organizations that operate this service."