25th April is World Malaria Day. This important day reflects on the progress that the global community has made in eliminating and controlling the extent of this disease. But before patting ourselves on the collective back, let us barebear in mind that Malaria still occurs in almost 100 countries worldwide. According to the 2013 World Malaria Report, there were an estimated 207 million malaria cases in 2012.
The same report revealed that around 627 000 people died of malaria in 2012. Ninety percent of the deaths were in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 77 percent were among children under the age of 5. A bad case of malaria can lead to permanent intellectual disabilities in children. This places a heavy social and economic burden on developing countries – with the Gates Foundation estimating malaria’s economic impact at billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
Spread by being bitten by mosquitoes infected with parasites, malaria symptoms include high fever, chills, flu-like symptoms and acute anaemia. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, malaria can be beaten using oral medication. However, the P. falciparum parasite reproduces very quickly: symptoms can escalate within days and even hours. Therefore, infection is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children who are facing the disease for the first time. The WHO states that: “The best way to help and celebrate Malaria Day would be to get together with friends and family and help invest in the future of defeating Malaria and regroup to fight other infections.”
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