Coming this week: World Malaria Day

DEBAKA DEBOBESA, Ethiopia - U.S. Army Corporal Benjamin Whiddon, Civil Affairs Team 4905 medic, hands an insecticide-treated net to an Ethiopian woman in Debaka Debobesa, Ethiopia, March 15, 2012. As part of an effort to deter a seasonal spike of malaria in the region, CAT 4905 delivered 18,000 packs of insecticide-treated bed nets, rope and nails to Ethiopians in Samaro and Debaka Debobesa, March 15 and 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Andrew Caya)

Somewhere in the world, a child dies every minute from malaria, according to the World Health Organization.

Each year, April 25 marks World Malaria Day. Starting in 2007, the World Health Assembly has set aside an annual day to highlight the international efforts to prevent and limit the damage of malaria.

U.S. Africa Command will be marking the occasion with an educational exhibit outside Kelley Theater on Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While those in America find mosquitoes merely annoying summer pests, mosquito-borne malaria remains a serious issue in many parts of the world. About half of the world’s population lives where there is a risk of malaria. No one knows exactly how many people contract malaria every year, but the estimate for 2010 was 216 million cases. About 665,000 people died in 2010, according to WHO.

The culprit behind malaria is Plasmodium, a parasite that enters the human body through a bite from an infected mosquito. From there, the parasite can multiply in the liver, infect red blood cells, and eventually lead to the blood supply being cut off to critical organs. Symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, and vomiting can usually appear about a week or two after the bite. If left untreated, malaria can lead to death.

In Africa, some local adults have developed immunity to malaria. Children, foreigners, and other high-risk individuals remain in potential danger from malaria-borne mosquitoes.

The U.S. Africa Command, with some 2,000 people and many more component members, regularly sends U.S. representatives down to Africa for exercises, operations, and humanitarian assistance. Those traveling to Africa from the AFRICOM headquarters in Germany must go through certain precautions to protect against malaria.

AFRICOM also hosts malaria outreach programs to help educate Africans about the benefits of mosquito nets, which can help reduce the number of malaria cases significantly. For example, the Civil Affairs Team (CAT) 4905, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, distributed 18,000 packs of insecticide-treated bed nets, rope and nails to Ethiopians in March  2012.

Look for more on malaria all week from our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Source: WHO Fact Sheet on Malaria

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