Malaria is an infectious disease in humans caused by the parasitic organism Plasmodium. These bacteria are transmitted to the human host via the infected bite of female Anopheles mosquitos. These mosquitos are vectors for the Plasmodium bacteria, carrying them in their saliva. These protozoan bacteria swiftly infect the human host, inducing drastic symptoms of illness, ranging from severe fever, headaches, digestive problems and extreme fatigue. If left untreated, the symptoms advance into yellowing of the skin and seizure episodes until the victim falls into a coma, followed by death. This disease had run one of the worst epidemics in African history, being mainly present in Sub-Sahara Africa and at risk in Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Luckily, malaria is a preventable and highly treatable disease! It is so preventable and treatable in fact, that it is being systematically eliminating from the biosphere by coordinated medical assaults across afflicted regions.
What’s the Bad News?
From a 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), a rough estimate of half the world’s population was at risk of contracting malaria. Though this sounds like the end of days, it is worth noting that the overwhelming majority of cases, 90-92% of malaria cases and deaths respectively, come from Sub-Sahara Africa. A total of 91 countries are recorded as of 2015 as having ongoing cases of malaria and are at a higher risk of contracting more. Moreover, a total of 13 countries in this region account for 76-75% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide.
Some people are at a higher risk of contracting malaria. Infants, young children, people with autoimmune diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of being susceptible to malaria. According to a report published by WHO as recently as December of 2016, there were a total of 212 million cases of malaria, as well as 429,000 deaths in the whole world.
What’s the Good News?
The fact that malaria is spread almost exclusively by the bacteria’s vector, Anopheles mosquitos, means that simply controlling the vectors controls the spread of disease. The most effective means of vector control is two-fold – mosquito nets treated heavily with special insecticide as well as indoor anti-insect sprays. These tools can be applied over a wide range of circumstances as reliable methods of vector control. Anti-malarial drugs have also been developed as a means to prevent and treat malaria as a disease. These drugs can be applied in pill and vaccine form and can be used be all patients with malaria.
The End is Near… for Malaria.
The progress made against malaria has crippled the rates of infection in recent years. According to WHO, between the years of 2010 and 2015, the rate at which populations were at risk had decreased by 29% globally. The mortality rates associated with malarial infections in this time frame had also decreased 29% in all age groups except children less than five years of age, where it decreased 35%. WHO has published expectations for eliminating or drastically reducing malaria cases and deaths by 90% worldwide by 2030.
At the rate malaria has been declining, coupled with the augmented potency of anti-malarial drugs and increased use of vector-controlling initiatives, it is very likely that the disease that has long been the scourge of Sub-Saharan Africa will be officially eliminated worldwide soon.