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World Malaria Day: Fighting Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Misery

Updated: Jul 21

#60 Science in History

25th April 2007

Today is World Malaria Day, instituted by the World Health Organisation’s Member States to raise awareness about the global burden of malaria and to mobilize efforts to control and eliminate the disease.

Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by a parasitic microorganism called Plasmodium, transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is a significant global public health problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, where it causes considerable morbidity and mortality.

The Plasmodium parasite has a complex life cycle, involving two hosts - humans and mosquitoes. The mosquito serves as the vector for the disease, meaning it transmits the parasite from an infected person to an uninfected person. Once the parasite enters the human host, it invades the liver, where it undergoes multiplication and development. Afterward, the parasite enters the bloodstream and invades red blood cells, causing them to burst and release more parasites, leading to the characteristic symptoms of malaria.

The symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and muscle pain, and these can become severe, leading to organ damage or even death if left untreated. Malaria is a significant global health challenge (around 229 million cases and 409,000 deaths were reported worldwide in 2019).

Fortunately, malaria can be prevented and treated. Vector control measures, such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and environmental management, can reduce mosquito populations and prevent transmission (Mosquito nets alone can reduce the risk of malaria by up to 90%). Prompt diagnosis and treatment with effective antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine, are also critical to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with malaria.

Despite progress in controlling malaria, much work remains to be done to achieve the goal of eliminating the disease. World Malaria Day is an opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of continued investment in malaria control and elimination efforts.

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