World Malaria Day is held annually on April 25. It is an international day to share information and educate world governments, local communities and at-risk people about malaria and the global efforts to control it.
Freedom From Malaria
Malaria is one of the most infamous diseases in world history. And it’s consistently one of the deadliest, despite being eradicated in many parts of the world.
Hundreds of thousands of people die from malaria every year. In 2017, malaria deaths reached 435,000.1
How are some countries malaria-free while others face millions of malaria cases and deaths a year? Most cases of malaria are found in low-income countries under-equipped to prevent and treat the disease.
Nations that have successfully beat malaria did so through a combination of advanced medication and treatments, the prevention of mosquito bites, and the elimination of infected mosquitoes. Their achievements ought to serve as an inspiring example for the larger global fight to end malaria for good.
The Spread of Malaria
For the great size of its impact and damage, malaria is spread through the smallest of hosts: mosquitoes. Malaria is transmitted through mosquito bites when parasites from an infected mosquito’s saliva enter into a person’s bloodstream. Within a week or two, an infection becomes very noticeable. Symptoms develop in the form of fatigue, fever, headaches, and vomiting. In the most serious of cases, malaria can lead to yellow fever, seizures, coma, and death.
The disease is most prevalent in tropical regions and humid climates, namely sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. High temperatures and rainfall that leaves standing bodies of water creates an environment favorable to mosquito breeding. This ecosystem provides a base of hosts for the spread of malaria.
In regions with high rates of malaria, young children suffer most. Partial immunity can be developed over years of exposure, but when a child gets infected for the first time she faces the highest risk death.
Malaria is a major killer of children under five years old, taking the life of a child every two minutes.1
In low-income countries, a child bitten by an mosquito carrying a malaria parasite often doesn't have access to the proper health services to receive treatment, and the child's parent's may not even recognize the true meaning behind the child's symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
Antimalarial medications have been available for years to treat those infected with the disease. Traditionally, those with malaria who are properly treated can expect a full recovery. But over time, the antimalarial drugs have become less effective as the malaria parasites have developed resistance to the medications.
Antimalarial drugs are not a sustainable malaria control solution due to the high cost and negative side effects that come from long-term use. Plus, with malaria being so common, a fever is sometimes the only symptom used to diagnose a case of the disease. When a patient is given an antimalarial medication unnecessarily, it reduces already limited resources and further contributes to development of drug-resistant parasites.
The best strategy for reducing the incidence of malaria is to prevent an infection in the first place. And the most-effective way of reducing the initial transmission is through the use of insecticide-treated bed nets.
Since many mosquito bites occur when a person is sleeping, insecticide-treated mosquito nets are a cost-effective method for protecting millions of children and their families. Insecticide-treated bed nets offer 70 percent more protection over sleeping without a net and are twice as effective as using an untreated net.2