While malaria is not a very common disease in most developed countries, it still affects millions of people in less-developed countries around the world. Statistics are kept each year by the World Health Organization (WHO) as it and other agencies work to eliminate malaria. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, but there are some relatively simple methods to protect from and kill off mosquitoes. These methods have been used in many parts of the world, but the data shows that there is still quite a bit of work to do to eliminate malaria worldwide.
Eradicated in the United States
Most developed countries have eradicated malaria. Malaria was eradicated in the United States between 1947 and 1951 through a concerted effort of almost five million house spray applications, drainage or removal of known mosquito breeding sites and aerial spraying of insecticides. In 1947, there were 15,000 reported cases of Malaria in the United States; by 1950, there were only 2,000. By 1951, malaria was considered to be eliminated. When we hear of cases of malaria in the United States or other developed countries, it is typically because the people with the disease had recently visited an area of the world where malaria occurs.
Malaria in Developing Countries
But malaria lived on and still does to this day. The WHO tracks the number of cases reported each year to determine the extent to which its efforts to eradicate the disease is working and where the need for such efforts exist. The most cases of malaria, by far, occur in Africa. According to the fact sheet for the World Health Organization’s 2015 world malaria report, 88% of the estimated 214 million new cases of malaria worldwide in 2015 were in the African Region. An additional 10% were in the Southeast Asia Region and 2% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
Preventing and Treating Malaria
The two main prevention methods are the use of insecticide-treated bed netting and indoor spraying. In addition, faster testing for malaria and better medical treatment reduce the likelihood of sickness and death, and reduce disease spread. Prevention and treatment efforts have been very successful in those areas of the world to which they have been introduced.
These measures are cost effective. WHO estimates that since 2001, 663 million cases of malaria have been averted. The organization estimates:
- 69% of this reduction is because of mosquito nets.
- 21% of the reduction is due to medical treatment.
- 10% is due to indoor spraying.
- Case management cost savings of $900 million (though it still costs $300 million in case management in Africa).
Studies have been undertaken throughout the world to determine the prevalence of malaria, including many on a local level. A study carried out in 2013 and published in 2015, for example, focused on the prevalence of malaria parasites in adults in a part of Kenya that is endemic to malaria. The study found that a large number (28%) of adults had the malaria parasite (Jenkins et al., 2015). Such a finding indicates the need for eradication efforts in that area.
Another study (Trape et al., 2014) was a longitudinal one that looked at the incidence of malaria in adults in a village in Senegal, where eradication and treatment interventions took place. This study found that the prevalence of parasites in adults declined from 58% in 1990 to 0.3% in 2012. This is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the interventions and provides support for increasing such efforts around the world.
Until malaria is wiped out, WHO and local researchers will continue to collect data on the prevalence of the disease and the effectiveness of the prevention and treatment measures. To better understand this data collection process, consider pursuing a degree in data science.
Jenkins, R., Omollo, R., Ongecha, M., Sifuna, P., Othieno, C., Ongeri, L., Kingora, J., and Ogutu, B. (2015). Prevalence of malaria parasites in adults and its determinants in malaria endemic area of Kisumu County, Kenya. Malaria Journal, 14, 263-268. DOI 10.1186/s12936-015-0781-5
Trape, J.F., Tall, A., Sokhna, C., Badara Ly, A., Diagne, N, Ndiath, O., Rogler, C. (2014).
The rise and fall of malaria in a west African rural community, Dielmo, Senegal from 1990 to 2012: A 22 year longitudinal study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 14(6), 476–488.