Saturday, February 14, 2009

Malaria Is A Real Global Health Challenge, But Tens Of Millions Of Deaths Can Be Prevented!

Malaria kills 1-2 million people annually. Deaths primarily occur in children. A third of all deaths worldwide in children under age 5 are from malaria. Pregnant women are also at higher risk of death from malaria. About 90% ot the deaths from malaria are in Africa. Between 300 and 500 million people get malaria annually.

When people are ill from Malaria they have difficulty working, and usually are a big burden on their family, and other caregivers as well.

We now know, from computerized analyses done by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, and from other studies, that environmental control is probably as important as bednets and the new vaccines (now in trials being done in Africa), in reducing malaria. For example, spreading ground-up seeds from neem trees, which grow in Africa, on the ponds and standing water can reduce mosquito populations by about 50%. Using simple shovels and plows, to fill in or reduce the size of ponds, also help significantly. Plant derived pesticides also help. Bed nets can also be treated with pesticide to improve their effectiveness. Some countries are again using DDT (an organochlorine pesticide) with success and fairly low risk. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, except for use in public health emergencies, like the outbreak of malaria or typhus, because it has EPA class II toxicity (moderate toxicity).

Bill Gates retired last year as the head of Microsoft to focus on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One of the foundations main projects is ending malaria. The foundation is spending millions on fighting disease and reducing deaths caused by malaria. In September 2008 Gates announced that the foundation will provide 168 million to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Two vaccines for malaria are now in late stage trials in Africa and the results so far look promising. The U.S. Government, under the previous Bush administration, also has given a long term commitment, and funding, to fight, not only AIDS, but also malaria, in Africa.

One campaign is asking for a million people to get involved in the malaria fight. Tens of millions of deaths from malaria can be prevented they hope.

Deaths can be prevented by use of simple $5 bednets, inexpensive shovels, old-fashioned DDT, and the vaccines now being developed.

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