April 25, 2008 was designated as the first annual date to commemorate the fight being made against a disease that strikes and kills millions of people all over the warmer regions of the world. Often referred to as a “disease without borders”, Malaria kills more than a million human beings annually, many of them old people and children under age 10. Malaria has been designated as the most destructive disease presently known to man, and has killed and disabled more people than any other cause since the dawn of history – including famine and warfare. The debilitating affects of the disease causes an estimated $15 billion worth of damage annually to the world’s economy due to lost productivity.
Because of the dangers of this disease, which seems to be on the upsurge in Asia, South America and Africa, the U.N. World Health Organization authorities declared in May, 2007, that a Malaria World Awareness Day would be inaugurated the following year to bring more attention to this devastating disease. And due to so many cases occurring on the African Continent, it was decided to change what was formerly called African Malaria Awareness Day to a world event to bring the problem to the attention of everyone living on this planet.
Malaria is caused by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito which carries four types of protozoan parasites. When the mosquito bites someone, it injects some of these parasites into the person’s bloodstream where they eventually reach the person’s liver. There, they multiply rapidly and cause the disease that brings on severe chills and high fever that lasts up to 48 hours or more each time the disease recurs. Malaria is a virtual “life sentence” for those infected by it, and can recur annually for the rest of a person’s life. Due to it’s severity during an attack, the disease can cause a number of severe complications, including heart failure; and as a result, it is often fatal to small children and people who are physically weak – especially older people, and those inflicted with chronic and acute ailments, such as HIV/AIDS. The most dangerous times for being exposed to the mosquitoes carrying this disease is in the evening hours when the sun sets and the early morning hours before sun-rise.
More than 100 countries, containing 40% of the world’s population, have problems with this disease. The African Rift Valley, that long, often marshy section of Eastern Africa is a virtual incubator for the Anopheles mosquito, resulting in the inhabitants of countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, and Burundi being some of the most devastated by this disease.
UN World Health authorities estimate that an investment of around $2.2 billion will be enough to control the disease. Although there are a number of medications to treat the affects of the disease, including that age old remedy quinine, the best treatment is prevention which can be had by simply providing people at risk, especially children, with mosquito netting when they go to sleep at night. With the augmentation of a world Malaria awareness day, it is hoped that more attention will be given to helping to control a scourge that has attacked mankind for centuries.