In 2010, the United Nations estimated that roughly half the world’s population was at risk of contracting malaria, a blood-borne disease spread by mosquitoes. Each year, there are over 200 million new cases which result in over 650,000 deaths. At the highest risk are those with weak immune systems—including the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those ill with immune system-compromising diseases. While this disease is widespread, it can be controlled and prevented.
The main preventative for malaria is controlling the mosquito population in malaria-infected areas. Mosquitoes are most prevalent in warm, wet environments. Areas which remain warm throughout the year, with no hard freezes or winter, do not experience annual mosquito population die-off and thus do not have a natural defense against malaria. This seasonal die-off allows infected mosquitoes to die without infecting the next generation who remain in dormant eggs during the cold and hatch in spring. Through the use of insecticides and indoor mosquito netting as well as the draining of stagnant water, communities at risk can significantly decrease malaria outbreaks.
About the Author: Vivek Baliga, a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in cardiovascular research, is a dedicated supporter of malaria research and education, including personally traveling to Mangalore, India to educate children on malaria treatment and prevention.