What exactly is Malaria?
It is a debilitating and deadly disease transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. This mosquito carries malarial parasites which multiply within the infected person and attack red blood cells. The result is fever, disrupted heart-rhythm and all too frequently, death.
An estimated 3 billion people, almost half of the world’s population, live in areas where malaria transmission occurs. Malaria is endemic in 107 countries and territories in tropical and sub-tropical regions, but there are substantial geographical disparities in the disease burden. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit region. In these regions, up to half a billion people become infected every year with an estimated 1 million succumbing to the disease.
Children and pregnant women are the worst affected. Over 80% of deaths – or around 800,000 a year – occur in sub-Saharan Africa among children under five. In Sub-Saharan Africa a child dies from Malaria every 40 seconds.
How is it Spread?
A mosquito bites an infected human and ingests malarial parasites which it retains in its saliva. The mosquito then goes on to bite another human and the mosquito’s saliva, now containing a colony of parasites, enters the bloodstream. Infection then spreads exponentially, infecting first hundreds then hundreds of thousands, and soon it can reach a point where it becomes endemic and increasingly more difficult to eradicate.
Are there any other effects?
Yes. They are social and economic. For those that don’t die from the infection, the protracted and debilitating effects of the disease renders them unable to work, unable to function and unable to care for their families. In countries where the disease is widespread the costs on the economy are enormous. It is estimated that malaria related-illnesses and mortality cost Africa’s economy €9.25billion per year – put into context, this equals the annual GDP of the Central African Republic, the Sudan and Zimbabwe, three of the worst affected countries in Africa. Malaria is a major factor in keeping poor countries poor.
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