In May 2007 the 60th session of the WHA (World Health Assembly) established the World Malaria Day as an international observance commemorated every April 25 to recognize global efforts for malaria control. Prior to the establishment of World Malaria Day, every April 25 since 2001 Africa Malaria Day was being held. This particular event was initiated after the Abuja Declaration. The declaration was signed by 44 countries that are malaria-endemic.
It’s an interesting fact that each year the World Malaria Day is focused on a different and specific theme. The slogan ‘Malaria: a disease without borders’ was used in 2008 and ‘Counting malaria out’ followed in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 and 2012 the slogans ‘Achieving Progress and Impact’ and ‘Sustain Gain, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria’ were used as specific themes. ‘Invest in the future: defeat malaria’ represented the 2013-2015 World Malaria Day, and in 2016 and 2017 the theme changed to ‘End Malaria for Good’. This year’s World Malaria Theme is ‘Ready to Beat Malaria’, as the WHO (World Health Organisation) announced.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by Plasmodium spp. parasites. The disease is transmitted through the bites of vectors, female mosquitoes (Anopheles). Exactly 5 Plasmodium species are responsible for causing malaria in humans, but P. vivax and P. falciparum pose the biggest risk. The first one (P. vivax) is the most prevalent species outside sub-Saharan Africa, while the latter (P. falciparum) causes is responsible for most death related to malaria in Africa and worldwide.
It takes about 2 weeks for the symptoms of the disease to occur after the bite in individuals that are lacking proper immunity. The acute phase shows symptoms of fever, chills, and headaches and can lead to severe illness if left untreated in the first 24 hours. Severe cases of malaria in children are characterized by anemia, cerebral disruptions, and respiratory distress. Multiple organ failures are also frequent in adults. People living in endemic areas can experience asymptomatic infections if they managed to develop partial immunity.
- Malaria is not a contagious disease, meaning that a healthy person cannot get infected when having a contact with an infected person
- Sometimes, the parasite remains in latent phase and symptoms occur up to 4 years after the infection
- The disease exists in 103 countries and approximately 3.3 billion people are at risk each year
- An average of 90% of death due to malaria infection occur in sub-Saharan Africa; the vast majority of the people are children under 5 years of age
- Every year approximately 1.500 malaria-positive cases are reported in the US
- Disney’s ‘The Winged Scourge’ animated movie released in 1943 featuring the Seven Dwarfs was an anti-mosquito and anti-malaria propaganda
- The Latin roots of the word ‘malaria’ literally mean ‘bad air’ because the Romans thought swamp fumes were primal source of the illness
- 8 US presidents contracted malaria, including G. Washington, A. Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, J.F. Kennedy
- In 2016, there were 216 million cases reported, which is 5 million more than in 2015. 445.000 of them proved to be lethal.
Celebrate World Malaria Day by educating your friends about this illness, by watching a historical documentary in the subject, or by contacting an NGO that works with malaria-positive people in Africa and see how you can help.