Responsible for 500,000 deaths in 2013, malaria remains an epidemic with 198 million malaria cases in 2013. One of my attractions to this Mosquito Squad business is our social responsibility partnership with Malaria No More and their work in delivering life-saving tools and education to families across Africa in an effort to end malaria deaths.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening disease that is caused when an infected mosquito bites a human, passing a parasite into the human’s blood stream. The parasite moves to the human’s liver where it multiplies. Some strands of malaria parasites can occur again, remaining dormant in the human liver for several months to 4 years. Symptoms of malaria can show up 7 days to 4 weeks to 1 year after being bitten and can include flu-like symptoms such as high fever, sweats, chills, headaches, depression, muscle aches, vomiting and nausea. If drugs are unavailable, diagnoses is late or the parasite is resistant to treatment, malaria can develop into anemia, hypoglycemia or cerebral malaria (which can cause coma, life-long learning disabilities and even death). Unlike some mosquito-borne diseases, mosquitoes can carry malaria from one human to another, which makes it much harder to eradicate.
Anyone Can get Malaria
I suffered from malaria in Nepal in 1992. I was extremely fortunate that upon my arrival home a few days after the fever started, I could walk into a clinic and get an immediate diagnosis and malaria treatment. As I experienced it, the illness was draining me of all my energy and was quite scary. Then the treatment was even worse. I did not sleep for three days and had a series of drug induced hallucinations. My senses were heightened to the extent that when a toilet was flushed in the next room, I felt like I was inside the rushing water in the bowl. Still, I was grateful for the treatment, and that I could take the whole course of it for myself.
I understand that many, many people living in Malaria stricken regions who get this disease as an adult, will have a recurrence annually. The reason for this is that they take just enough of the medicine to get better, and then share it with others. Leaving the parasite’s eggs inside to hatch one year later. Older generations understand that once you have Malaria, you have it for life, because that was so often the case in the past, and is still, where there are not enough drugs to go around.
The Challenges of Protecting People from Malaria
You might be wondering why an American would go to Asia and not be protected against Malaria. In fact, I was. Prior to traveling, my doctor prescribed the prophylactic drug as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) according to what strains of malaria had been active in the time period leading up to my trip. But that strain was not all that was out there, lurking and waiting for a host in which to take up residency and procreate were many malarial strands. Quite simply, I was infected by a different strain of malaria that my medicine was not able to prevent.
Not unlike the flu, there are many varieties of the malarial parasite, over 100 species in fact. Preventing malaria with drugs is similar to using the flu vaccine. It is educated guess work when trying to get in front of the strain in a specific geographical area. Sometimes scientists are right on the money and sometimes not. The top four known malaria parasites that infect humans: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae.
My husband and I recently saw the movie Mary and Martha, about two women who have little in common until malaria touches both their lives, driving them to get involved in the cause of malaria prevention. My husband was with me when I contracted malaria and he was questioning the severity of the illness in the children in the movie. My husband is worldly, and highly educated. I realized at that point just how ignorant we are, here in the U.S., about the effects of Malaria on children and their families. The fact is that around the worlds a child dies every single minute from malaria. That is 1 child, gone, every 60 seconds. Every day, all week, all year. Children are especially at risk because their young bodies do not have the strengthened immune system of an adult. The death or long term disability of so many children for a perfectly treatable condition is absolutely unacceptable.
How We Can Help
The fact is that not every kid will make it back to school this year. With limited resources in Africa, children die all too often. But we have the tools to end this child killer in its tracks.
With rapid diagnostic tests for people in remote settings, a diagnosis can be made and treatment can be given in time.
The front-line treatment for malaria is Artemisinin-based combination therapies. This treatment is not necessarily available to the developing world that is so effected by malaria, but all it takes is $1 to provide a full-course of the lifesaving treatment that cures a child in 1-3 days.
The mosquito that transmits malarial parasites is a night feeder, making bed nets a very successful method of prevention. With Long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets a barrier is created to keep the mosquitoes away from people at night.
Indoor Residential spraying is how malaria was eradicated from the southeast United States and it can work in other countries two, but without the help of government aid, the funding for these lifesaving tools is not nearly where it needs to be. But there is hope, scientists and organization from around the world are working diligently on a lifesaving malaria vaccine and are getting closer every day.
Where you come in…
With fast diagnosis, and the medicine pack on hand in the village clinics, children who would die in a few days are able to fully recover. As you’re out shopping for school supplies, choose the lower priced back pack and give the difference to malaria no more. $1 can buy a medicine pack to save a life. Save one with your $1 DONATION or more with your increased generosity. Every little bit helps.
Join Mosquito Squad and Malaria No More to help provide prevention, testing and treatments to children all across Africa.