World Malaria Day

The 4th World Malaria Day is observed today to remind the global community of the need to take action to reduce the global threat of malaria. It was instituted on May 23, 2007, by the World Health Assembly during its 60th Session.

Malaria is derived from an Italian word “mal aria” which means “bad air” because in the beginning it was believed that the disease was caused by bad air. On November 6, 1880, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French army surgeon stationed in Constantine, Algeria, had the first true sighting of the protozoan parasite (called plasmodium) in the peripheral blood films taken from soldiers with malaria. His discovery, however, was rejected by the medical community of the time and it was not until 1886 that it was accepted by Italian scientists, who were then the leaders in medicine. In 1898, Sir Ronald Ross who was working in the Presidency General Hospital in Calcutta, India, discovered that the carrier of malaria are mosquitoes.

Malaria, one of the oldest diseases in history, is an infectious disease, which causes about 2 million deaths worldwide and about 500 million new cases yearly. Malaria–carrying mosquitoes are generally found in tropical and sub-tropical climates. The disease spreads from person to person through the bites of infected mosquitoes. However, there are other ways in which the infection is transmitted, such as blood transfusion or organ transplants, sharing of needles (especially among drug users), and tranplacenta (transfer of malaria parasites from an infected mother to her unborn child).

Malaria is life-threatening but it is preventable. In addition to medical treatment, other measures include sleeping under mosquito nets, wearing insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and pants when travelling to malaria prone locations.

As part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which targets to combat malaria, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrone (AIDS), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and other major diseases and attain the goal of zero deaths by 2015, this year’s observance is an opportunity to focus on the remaining challenges to MDG targets. As we observe World Malaria Day, let us help in educating the public about malaria, its causes and prevention. Let us also report cases that we know so that these persons can received the proper medical treatment.

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