For developed world travelers, malaria is an exotic hazard, and easily preventable. Yet for many underdeveloped communities, malaria is an epidemic. 90% of all deaths from malaria in 2010 were in Africa, with the majority of victims being under five years old. Spread by a mosquito bite, symptoms of malaria can show up 10-15 days after being bitten and include fever, vomiting, sweating, weakness, and muscle pain. Once diagnosed, malaria is treatable with artemisinin-based combination therapy. But left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Because it takes only a single bite to be infected, and mosquito populations are booming, it is very difficult to prevent the spread of the disease.
Many international health organizations have been working on ways to help control the disease with one of the most effective being the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets over beds because the species of mosquito which spreads malaria bites mainly at dusk and dawn. Vector control (i.e. the control of animals carrying pathogens) is another method used, as mosquitos have specific breeding preferences, mainly in residual puddles of water. The World Health Organization also encourages the use of insecticide around homes to protect families and communities.
Using the current strategies there is hope that the spread of malaria may be one day halted. Recently, four countries have been declared as malaria free – the UAE in 2007, Morocco and Turkmenistan in 2010, and Armenia in 2011. The greatest challenges, however, remain in sub-Saharan Africa.
– Farahnaz Mohammed
Photo: Life Saver