The second of three posts in consideration of today being World Malaria Day. Follow this link to post one (with a vivid photo of malaria in action).
~The malaria parasite goes through several different stages in its life cycle. Inside the human body, it divides (multiplies?) in nonsexual ways. It reproduces, sexually, though, inside the body of the mosquito. Quinine, a bark that has been used to treat malaria for many years, works by destroying the stage of malaria that causes problems in the human body. It does not, however, destroy the stage of malaria that can reproduce in the mosquito’s body. So, a person could get better with treatment, but still facilitate the transmission of malaria to others through the reproducing part of the malaria being picked up by another mosquito. (Again, that is not the most technical explanation and certain aspects may not be exactly “the way it is,” but it is the best I can do to explain one of the fascinating and complicated aspects of malaria.)
~Malaria used to be a major problem in the U.S. during the Civil War. From a random website I discovered today, here is the number of deaths from various illnesses in the Union Army:
Although the exact number of Confederate Army deaths from malaria is not known, there were 41,539 cases in an 18 month period (January, 1862-July, 1863) in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The cause of the disease was not known and soldiers often slept without the protection of mosquito nets.
~Malaria was a very real problem for the Ingalls family in their Little House on the Prairie.
~Malaria struck the fledging settlement of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1798. One young boy, Seth Doan, “kept everyone in Cleveland fed during the epidemic. Thanks to his efforts, no one in the settlement died.” A fictionalized account of that summer of malaria and Seth’s role in saving the lives of the people in the settlement is recounted in The Boy Who Saved Cleveland, by James Cross Giblin. This historical fiction novel for children is only 64 pages long.
~There is only one species, out of the 3000 or so species total of mosquitoes, that carries malaria, and even then, it is only the female (I haven’t substantiated this information, but, from what I understand, the females live on human blood, the males on fruit.) You can tell the differences in species of mosquitos by the presence or absence of stripes and also by whether or not the back legs are resting on you when she is biting versus lifted up. I could never remember which signs indicated a malaria carrying mosquito, and, personally, I prefer to kill them all.
~Here are some interesting books your library may have, on mosquitoes in general, or malaria, in specific:
Mosquitoes, by Jonathan Kravetz (a fascinating book for children)
Mosquito: A Natural History of our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe, by Andrew Spielman Sc.D. and Michael D’Antonio (I read this one about five years ago, but I seem to remember it being interesting and not too technically complex)
The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria, by Mark Honigsbaum (This one was a bit more technical, but still doable. Fascinating stories about science “back in the days”, politics, the mixing of the two. There was a lot of bravery that went into the search for a malaria cure as well as some craziness that would seem to have bordered on insanity. Again, even though I didn’t understand all of the technical explanations, the history and stories of the people involved were fascinating to me.)
~And a few well known people who have taken up malaria prevention and treatment as their cause:
Bill and Melinda Gates
Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated and his “Nothing but Nets” campaign (Well I had never heard of him before, but maybe if you read Sports Illustrated. His passion and emotion in this article are pretty impressive.)
Laura Bush and her support of the Inter-faith Malaria Project in Mozambique (and her husband, too, but I was impressed that it is one of the causes the First Lady has given her support to.)
As I mentioned in my last post, I tend to be a bit skeptical of the efficacy of campaigns and causes. I must say if money is going to be thrown somewhere, I’m at least a little bit happy that some of it is being directed towards research for a disease that doesn’t primarily affect the Western World. Still, while I commend these well known people for taking malaria seriously and bringing its devastating impact onto our radar screen, I’m not exactly recommending their approaches.
In general, I tend to think that for every well intentioned Super Solution, a few more problems (some of them Super Problems) tend to be created. G. M. Prabhu left an insightful and thought-provoking comment on Lingamish recently, which addresses some of my concerns and hesitancy. I hope you will read the whole comment, but if not, at least read paragraph #8, which has some highly relevant thoughts for today’s focus on malaria prevention and treatment in ways which do not undermine, demean or generally disregard the actual people help is being offered to.
(And even though I’m not actually promoting the Nothing but Nets campaign, I still think you should go read that article by Rick Reilly. It is by far the most profound column I have ever read from a Sports magazine (well, even if I had actually read other articles in Sports magazines to compare this one too, I still think this article would be a winner.)
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