Monday, July 18, 2011
Malaria, Malaria…Oh what a disease!
Mosquitoes are terrible. They spread all sorts of disease through creepily sucking your blood. Of greatest epidemiological importance among all the diseases that these little blood-suckers spread is malaria. In 2008 the World Health Organization estimated that 247 million (!!!!!) people were infected and nearly 1 million deaths were due to malaria. Just for illustrative purposes that is 676712 new people infected each day!! I feel that these numbers completely justify these kinds of tactics. For the scoffers out there, Cracked is definitely a reliable news source :)
In Zimbabwe the nursery children sang the “Malaria, Malaria” song every day to express how much of a problem malaria poses to their daily lives. For the five months I was in Zimbabwe I did not take any anti-malarial medications, slept without a bed net, and never used bug sprayed when I ventured out during dawn or dusk, prime biting time for the Anopheles mosquitoes. Not a plasmodium in sight. Ignorance is bliss; such a true statement and probably the reason that I am usually so happy.
Now here in Uganda I think about contracting malaria a lot. It might be because some of my American co-workers are a little obsessed with their medications, or that every local has had malaria multiple times, or that mosquitoes factor heavily into my daily life (I live next to a lovely swamp made possible courtesy of Lake Victoria). Some preparations I have now adopted to prevent myself from joining the two million annual malaria sufferers are taking doxycycline, sleeping under a bed net, and fully appreciating the man who fogs our area every night. The bed net presents a problem because it keeps me in my sleeping area more effectively than it keeps mosquitoes out. Every morning I have a more prolonged and distressing fight with my net to find where it ends and how I can get out. Also, our fogger guy may be THE definition for occupational hazard. Like clockwork, every night at 7:12pm he starts running around the hotel with some ridiculously loud machine that spews the most terrible smelling grey fog. I feel bad for him because he has no mask to protect him from the evil mosquito killing cloud and he does this every night. Yikes!!
However a bright spot to this increased awareness of malaria is my reaction time. I am lightning fast death from on high to my winged adversaries, much like this only with more enthusiasm. Also, I am getting pretty good at spotting little plasmodium on slides of people infected with malaria. So if I fall sick I will be able to diagnose and treat myself. That’s the upside here J
Fun fact: We, as Americans, say “mos-skee-toes” here they say “mos-quit-toes” just like it is spelled. Say it aloud to really appreciate the difference. It makes me giggle like a small and easily amused child every time we talk about the flying pests.