Saturday, April 26, 2008

Malaria Madness

From Abuja Nigeria and the war torn killing fields of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cash strapped Sri Lanka across a besieged Nepal through Sarangani - a province of the Philippines, one million people drop dead each year from Malaria. A child dies every thirty seconds from the parasitic disease for lack or want of a mosquito net. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations announced during yesterday's first ever World Malaria Day that he wants resources dedicated to eradicating the malicious disease by 2010. It does have the unfortunate, yet useful acronym of WMD.
Cameroon on Friday celebrated the first World Malaria Day at Nanga Eboko, a small town located at about 170 km East of Yaounde.
In Cameroon, malaria is the topmost cause of morbidity and represents 40% of medical consultations, 23% of hospitalizations, 26% of sick leave and 40% of the annual health budget of households, according to a survey conducted by the National Statistics Institute.
For 50,000 years malaria has plagued the planet and within the last 10,000 years increased its killing efficiency and impacted quality of life. Mosquitoes adapt and ward off man made chemicals like DDT wherein the environment and people suffered long after the spraying when it was used. Because of the prevalence of malaria in Europe until a few centuries ago when the earth cooled in the Little Ice Age, old English written works by a bard, Shakespeare, called it the ague. The advent of increased temperatures and standing pools of water where logging, farming or ranching eradicated forests increase the blood thirsty infected female mosquito population to descend upon people who have moved into these areas. Quinine was the first remedy known to take on the blood disease and those suffering pigmented bodies.

From all over the world, a half billion people suffer an outbreak of malaria each year. Most vulnerable to malaria induced anemia are children and expecting mothers. The number of deaths is pegged at one every thirty seconds just from malaria because many cases are unreported from remote and rural areas. The majority of deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa but on the rise elsewhere in outlying areas of Vietnam. Latent parasites can reside in the liver causing relapses of the disease years later or certain types cause chronic malaria. Mental impairments occur from the raging high fevers induced by the disease's onset in children. The United Nation's leader wants the tropical disease, malaria, eradicated globally in less than a thousand days.
Children who are younger than 5 are particularly exposed to the disease. Protecting them is essential. A program is expected to be launched in the fall to immunize children.

"This treatment is part of a new preventive strategy," said
Cheikh Sokhna, of the Development and Research Institute. "It will be
applied to 100,000 children who live in high-risk zones."

The new treatment has been largely financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, which donated $3.9 million. It has already yielded spectacular results in the town of Niakhar, where the mortality rate from malaria decreased by 86 percent. "The aim is to see whether this can be repeated on a larger scale," Sokhna told Agence-France Presse.

"I am convinced that people can live with malaria without dying, thanks to better access to health care," said Sokhna.

Randall Packard studies the history of malaria and its origins from very surprising beginnings. The book winds its way through the complexities and scope of the challenge to outlining some global policies to finally start eradicating this malicious and pernicious disease. The well recommended book from the John Hopkins Biographies of Disease series is The Making of A Topical Disease: A Short History of Malaria.

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