I know, I know, I touched on malaria in my last entry. But, World Malaria Day is tomorrow, April 25th.
Malaria is one of the most prevalent and debilitating diseases that is currently affecting our species. A lot of scientific advancements have come into fruition because our struggle with battling malaria. Since its World Malaria Day, I’ll tell you a little bit about the background and history of malaria.
Most people assume malaria is a disease that is only concentrated in Africa or some tropical regions of Asia, but that is not the case. In 1937, there were over 1 million cases of malaria in the United States, and it currently affects people in hundreds of countries. Malaria cases were eradicated from the United States over 50 years ago, but more than 40% of the world’s population is at risk. Although over 90 percent of malaria cases today are in sub-Saharan Africa, it affects the entire world.
Many people don’t give malaria the credit it deserves for being such a horribly intelligent and sneaky parasite. Some historical epidemiologists believe that malaria played an important hand in the fall of ancient Greek and Roman empires. In medieval times, many expeditions were not wiped out by the wars they were engaged, but by malaria infections instead. During the Vietnam war, battle wounds were the most prevalent reason for hospitalization; Malaria was the second.
In 1955, the World Health Organization proposed to eradicate malaria worldwide through the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT. Their efforts began with routine house spraying, and “bombing” areas of high infectivity or environments that were conducive to mosquito breeding. The emergence of drug resistance, widespread resistance to available insecticides, wars and massive population movements, difficulties in obtaining sustained funding from donor countries, and lack of community participation made the long-term maintenance of the effort untenable. Completion of the eradication campaign was eventually abandoned to one of control.
According to the Malaria No More organization, malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. In 2008, an estimated 863,000 people died of malaria Although these facts and statistics may make it seem so, a malaria infection and diagnosis is not a death sentence. Malaria is definitely a treatable and curable disease.
Malaria No More is taking donations to fund their initiatives to expand treatment, prevention and to eradicate malaria from the world’s poplation. Their Solution Statement reads: “in order to be successful the fight against malaria must be a comprehensive one, which includes giving families and individuals insecticide-treated bed nets to sleep under, taking steps to kill mosquitos where they breed and when they enter houses to feed at night, and making anti-malarial drugs such as artemisinin-based combination therapies more widely available.”
Twitter has joined up with Malaria No More and other organizations for World Malaria Day and has set up a program where you can donate $10 with every retweet you send out. Check it out here.
Also note, the World Health Organization just announced on April 23rd:
Rapid diagnostic malaria tests will help health workers quickly identify which patients have the disease and need immediate treatment. This will allow malaria to be properly diagnosed before treatment.
I encourage you to take a moment and think about how you have screens on your windows, access to anti-malarial drugs, and don’t need to sleep under a net to ensure your survival.