In 2007 the 60th session of the World Health Assembly established April 25th as World Malaria Day. This day is observed across the globe in an effort to educate people about malaria and examine “the progress we have made towards malaria control and elimination.” These efforts are having a positive affect, with the estimated number of malaria deaths falling from over a million people to about 790,000 since the first World Malaria Day four years ago. But masses of people are still contracting the devastating disease — and with drug-resistant malaria appearing in Asia, the crippling personal and economic affects of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, and impoverished families unable to purchase life-saving insecticidal nets — the goal of reducing malaria deaths to zero by 2015 is as important as ever.
As long as I can remember I have always been interested in the study of diseases and epidemics. Years beforeHouse M.D. ever invaded our TVs I was reading and watching Discovery Health programs about genetic diseases and history’s plagues. In fact, when we visited our local library on National Library Worker’s Day I checked out Mark Pendergrast’s hardback, Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Still, I’m completely ashamed to admit that before tonight I knew very little about malaria. Sure, I knew that it was carried and spread by mosquitos, and that nets were an important tool in preventing the disease, but I had no idea that so many people — mostly women and children — die from malaria every year.
In observance of World Malaria Day Chris and I decided we would educate ourselves about the disease. We watched the first hour of the PBS special Malaria: Fever Wars before the DVD locked up. The video was extremely informative and inclusive, discussing malaria in Africa where it is most prevalent, as well as it’s affect on the U.S. and Europe. The number of sick people, especially children, was difficult to watch, but also emphasized the importance of controlling and treating this highly preventable disease. When one expert suggested that malaria could be controlled worldwide at a cost of 3 billion dollars annually it really put things in perspective — when the documentary was made several years ago the United States’ annual bill for defense was over 400 billion dollars.