Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Senator Mobina Jaffer

GET UPDATES FROM Senator Mobina Jaffer
 

Do We Have the Will to Wipe Out Malaria?

Posted: 09/10/2013 6:04 pm

Malaria is an entirely treatable and mostly preventable disease. Less than a century ago it was prevalent across the world, but in high-income countries prevention, monitoring and treatment brought the disease under control and eventually eradicated it. In 1951 the United States hit a milestone by having three years without a single malaria case.

Malaria is a potentially fatal blood disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to human and animal hosts by the Anopheles mosquito. The human parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, is dangerous not only because it digests the red blood cell's hemoglobin, but also because it changes the adhesive properties of the cell it inhabits. This change, in turn, causes the cell to stick to the walls of blood vessels. It becomes especially dangerous when the infected blood cells stick to the capillaries in the brain, obstructing blood flow, a condition called cerebral malaria.

There are four major strains of malaria, however, Plasmodium Vivax is most wide spread across Asia, particularly India; and Plasmodium falciparum is found in mostly tropical regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, and is the most dangerous of the four in terms of both its lethality and morbidity

Currently, over 3.3-billion people are at risk of contracting malaria because of where they are geographically situated. However, according to the World Health Organization, countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India are of significant concern. These countries are characterized by high levels of malaria transmission and widespread reports of insecticide resistance.

So why has the world not eradicated it already? There are a variety of reasons, the most obvious of which is funding. According to the U.N. the world has contributed only half of what it needs to in order to bring malaria under control. In the last few years, current funding has saved an estimated 1.1-million people, but it is not enough. More than 200-million people suffered from the disease in 2010, and about 655,000 died, the vast majority of them children under age five.

With more funding for research and development of new insecticide and for distribution of preventative tools, the world has the capacity to eradicate this horrific disease from our psyche. The question is, do we have the will to do so?

Loading Slideshow...
  • Avoid Dusk And Dawn

    The evening and early morning hours are <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/prevention_info.htm" target="_hplink">peak biting times for many mosquito species</a>, according to the CDC, so consider ramping up your protection or staying inside at these times if you can. <br><br> But, Conlon warns, other species bite during the day, too. "Whenever you're present, you're on the menu," he says. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/activesteve/5628626857/" target="_hplink">ActiveSteve</a></em>

  • Eat Garlic

    Garlic has long been rumored to ward off mosquitoes, but there isn't much research to back up the claims. However, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090130154901.htm" target="_hplink">garlic does have some healthy benefits</a>, thanks to the powerful antioxidant allicin that gives it its smell and flavor. Adding a little extra garlic to your summer diet certainly won't hurt! <br><br> Pure garlic oil, on the other hand, when rubbed on the skin <em>will</em> repel mosquitos -- for around 20 minutes -- but it will probably repel everyone around you as well, jokes Conlon. <br><br> There is one ingestible to avoid, however. The <em>New York Times</em> reports that alcohol is just about the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/health/24real.html" target="_hplink">only food or beverage proven to have a true effect on mosquitos</a>, and the bad news is it attracts them. A small 2002 study showed that more mosquitoes landed on beer drinkers than tee-totalers. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenorton/2212742541/" target="_hplink">lowjumpingfrog</a></em>

  • Avoid Scented Shampoos, Soaps And Perfumes

    This one is mostly rumor, says Conlon. When they're not feasting on humans, mosquitos obtain some nourishment from plants, so the thinking goes that if you smell like a pretty flower, a bug might mistake you for one, but it's never been proven, he says.

  • Citronella

    A small study from 2002 found that <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa011699#t=articleResults" target="_hplink">citronella-based repellents</a> keep bugs away for about 20 minutes or less. <br><br> While the plant-based oil is thought to smell bad to mosquitoes, it's not highly unpleasant to humans, so if you feel like it works, there's no reason to stop using it, says Conlon, but there may be a bit of a placebo effect going on, he says. <br><br> The same study found that other plant-based repellents, like geranium oil, didn't provide lasting protection either. However, protection from <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa011699#t=articleResults" target="_hplink">soybean-oil-based repellents</a> lasted about 90 minutes. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/5021856163/" target="_hplink">Keith Williamson</a></em>

  • Burn A Candle

    Whether you light citronella candles or decorative patio torches, smoke will keep mosquitos at bay, says Conlon. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedsblog/904732/" target="_hplink">TedsBlog</a></em>

  • Cover Up

    The CDC recommends wearing long sleeves, pants, hats and closed-toed shoes instead of sandals to <a href="http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/mosquito-tick.htm" target="_hplink">cover exposed skin</a>. In the dead of summer, this might not always be appropriate, but if you have to be outside during dusk or dawn, when temperatures are likely to be cooler, long sleeves may be more practical. <br><br> "Any exposed skin is 'fair game,'" says Conlon.

  • B Vitamins

    According to the Mayo Clinic, taking a daily dose of <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mosquito-bites/DS01075/DSECTION=alternative-medicine" target="_hplink">75 to 150 milligrams of vitamin B-1</a> (thiamin) could slightly change your scent in a way that might keep mosquitoes away, but the research isn't conclusive. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanmichaelragan/6254362902/" target="_hplink">seanmichaelragan</a></em>

  • Eliminate Standing Water

    Any pools or puddles around your home or yard can quickly become mosquito breeding ground. The Mayo Clinic recommends unclogging roof gutters, emptying any kids' pools, changing the water in any bird baths weekly, making sure rain is not accumulating in trash can lids and storing flower pots or any other unused containers upside down, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mosquito-bites/ds01075/dsection=prevention" target="_hplink">among other tips you can see here</a>. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/elias_daniel/281970867/" target="_hplink">elias_daniel</a></em>

  • Stay Close To The Fan

    "Mosquitoes are bad fliers," <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/insideout/index.ssf/2010/06/preventing_mosquito_bites_so_b.html" target="_hplink">Dave Shetlar, an Ohio State University professor of urban landscape entomology</a> told Cleveland.com. Perch yourself near ceiling fans on patios, porches or open-air restaurants that have them. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lipstickproject/4637258947/" target="_hplink">JMacPherson</a></em>

  • Ditch The Bug Zapper

    These electronic gadgets will wind up killing bigger bugs, like moths, rather than mosquitoes, says Conlon. <br><br> In fact, an entomology professor from the University of Delaware published a study in 1996 showing that out of nearly 14,000 insects killed by six zappers in one summer, <a href="http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/4323044" target="_hplink">only 31 were biting fliers</a>, <em>Popular Mechanics</em> reported. Another 2,000 were beneficial bugs that keep real pests at bay, and the others were harmless species. <br><br> Plus, mosquitoes are <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/insideout/index.ssf/2010/06/preventing_mosquito_bites_so_b.html" target="_hplink">attracted to <em>dim</em> light</a>, so they may fly toward the zapper initially, but they'll likely turn away from the thing when they get too close, according to Cleveland.com. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfb/182343058/" target="_hplink">hfb</a></em>

  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

    The CDC, <em>Consumer Reports</em> and other outlets recommend this "very good repellent" Conlon says, which, at 40 percent concentration will ward off mosquitoes and ticks. <br><br> However, it isn't recommended for <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/beauty-personal-care/insect-repellent/overview/index.htm" target="_hplink">children under 3</a>, according to <em>Consumer Reports</em>. Conlon explains that isn't necessarily because of toxicity, however. "I think they probably haven't taken the time to get the [EPA] registration," he says, a timely and costly process, when children under 3 can be protected in other ways, like dressing them appropriately, he says. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fairfaxcounty/7352235208/" target="_hplink">fairfaxcounty</a></em>

  • Catnip Oil

    According to a 2001 study, this natural repellent is <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010828075659.htm" target="_hplink">10 times more effective than DEET</a>. Since then, scientists have been studying its repellency, and Dow Chemical is in the process of getting EPA registration for a new catnip-based product, says Conlon. Of course, every consumer will have to weigh the cost and the benefits, he jokes. You'll repel mosquitoes wearing the stuff, but you're likely to attract cats! <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cygnus921/2598483750/" target="_hplink">cygnus921</a> </em>

  • IR3535

    This cryptically-named repellent, most well-known as the active ingredient in Avon Skin So Soft, is characterized by the EPA as a "biopesticide repellent," meaning it is in fact derived from natural materials. However, the same 2002 study found this compound <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa011699#t=articleResults" target="_hplink">protects against mosquitoes for only about 23 minutes</a>. <br><br> <em>Photo from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Avon-Guard-IR3535-EXPEDITION-Spray/dp/B00199RQ5S/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1339188213&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">Amazon.com</a></em>

  • Related Video

 

Follow Senator Mobina Jaffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/senjaffer

FOLLOW CANADA IMPACT