The Malaria Phenomenon Part II

June 28th, 2012
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v10-7-Speaking Out Webster’s defines malaria as “an infectious disease caused by the bite of the anopheles mosquito, and characterized by recurring attacks of fever and chills.” I would add that it is also an implacable killer of men, women and children.

From the early 1990s until about 2005 I contracted malaria at least a dozen times, once for 10 consecutive years. I also got dengue once. I became an expert at recognizing the symptoms. Having the malaria lab work done was just a formality.

Out of desperation, my wife appealed to my primary care physician in Worcester, Massachusetts, for help. Since my doctor wasn’t an expert in the field of tropical diseases, she made contact with the experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. They recommended the following treatment: one 500 mg Chloroquine tablet beginning two weeks before entering Honduras, the same dosage once a week while residing in Honduras, continuing for two weeks after departing Honduras.

Since I began following this treatment, I have been completely malaria free. Because of the history I’ve had with malaria, I have been paying rather close attention to the malaria phenomenon worldwide.

According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria cases and deaths have been dropping since 2004, largely because of big campaigns to distribute bed nets, spray homes with insecticides and make better drugs available.

In December 2011 WHO reported about 655,000 people died from malaria worldwide in 2010. However, a February 2012 study published in the British medical journal Lancet – one of the most reputable journals in circulation – suggested that malaria was killing twice as many people as experts had previously thought and that it could also be hitting older children and adults – long considered to be the least susceptible.

Researchers using newly available data and modeling tools put the 2010 malaria death toll at about 1.2 million. Almost 90 percent of these deaths were in Africa, with the rest occurring in other parts of the tropics, which would include the Bay Islands. The new findings also challenge the belief that children who grow up in areas with malaria develop immunity to the disease as they get older. I could have told them that belief was false. I grew up in an area with malaria, and as I already stated, I contracted the disease more than 10 times as an adult.

Doctors have long thought children under five and pregnant women were the most susceptible to the mosquito-borne disease. “That assumption appears to be wrong,” declared Stephen Lim of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, one of the authors of the 2012 study. “We need to shift our strategies to try protecting everyone, not just children under five and pregnant women.”

Lim and colleagues analyzed data on malaria deaths from 1980 to 2010, including information not used in prior studies. They made statistical adjustments for deaths that may have been misclassified, including adult cases that earlier studies completely ignored. The study was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Next month: Part III, the final part. [/private]

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