facts about malaria
It is well known that mosquitoes carry diseases. Even in developed nations like the U.S., there are yearly warnings of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but no disease carried by mosquitoes is as widespread as malaria. The following 10 facts about malaria shed some light on the global malaria epidemic, what is being done about it and what the future holds.

 

Top 10 Facts About Malaria

 

1. The word “malaria” means “bad air.” In the 18th century people thought that malaria was caused from breathing in bad air in marshy areas. In 1880 scientists discovered that this was not true, but the name stuck.

2. Malaria is spread by parasites. Five different parasites can cause malaria in humans, but the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is the most deadly. The parasites enter the human bloodstream through the bite of an infected mosquito.

3. Malaria is most commonly found in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Mosquitoes thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, so countries that are near the equator are more at risk. Additionally, many African and Southeast Asian countries have high poverty rates and people do not have access to malaria prevention and treatment, or are not educated on the disease.

4. Malaria can pass from human to human. You cannot “catch” malaria like you can a cold, but people can pass it on by sharing needles, blood transfusions and through pregnancy.

5. When infected with malaria, symptoms can range from none to severe. It can take anywhere from 9-40 days for symptoms to appear. Early symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough and sweating. If not treated within 24 hours the disease can worsen, leading to seizures, impairment of brain and spinal cord function, loss of consciousness and death.

6. Malaria infects an average of 200 million people each year. Up to 1 million of these 200 million will die every year. Of malaria deaths, 90 percent occur in Africa. In Africa one child dies from malaria every minute.

7. There is a cure for malaria. There are different drug treatments available depending on the strain of malaria an individual is infected with. The drugs cure malaria by killing all of the parasites within a person’s bloodstream. However, new waves of drug-resistant malaria are threatening the lives of millions.

8. The best cure for malaria is prevention. There are two major ways that malaria is prevented. Insecticide-treated mosquito netting placed around beds is a good way to keep people safe while they sleep, and spraying a household with residual insecticide will effectively eliminate mosquitos in the house for three to six months.

9. Mortality rates are falling. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen by 42 percent globally. This is largely due to increased prevention and faster testing and treatment to those who are thought to have malaria. By 2015, 52 countries are expected to have reduced their number of malaria cases by 75 percent. In the past four years the countries of Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Turkmenistan and Armenia have been certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated malaria.

10. There is a promising vaccine currently being tested. While there is currently no vaccine on the market to prevent against malaria, there is one being tested via clinical trial in seven African countries with positive results. Scientists feel very encouraged by this new treatment and the vaccine could be ready for full-time use as early as 2015.

These 10 facts on malaria depict the fact that although malaria is a curable and preventable illness, millions of people still contract it every year. Those who contract it mainly reside in poor countries where access to quality health care and education is more difficult to come by. If these people receive the proper education on malaria, as well as access to medications, then there would be no reason for anyone to be dying from this disease.

— Taylor Lovett

Sources: CDC, Medical News Today, WHO
Photo: Flickr