Malaria kills one child under the age of five every 30 seconds.
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In the poorest parts of the world, where effective window screens are lacking, insecticide-treated bed nets are arguably the most cost-effective way to prevent malaria transmission. One bed net costs just $10 (€8) to buy and deliver to individuals in need. One bed net can safely last a family for about four years, thanks to a long-lasting insecticide woven into the net fabric.
Studies show that use of insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce transmission as much as 90% in areas with high coverage rates.
Bed nets prevent malaria transmission by creating a protective barrier against mosquitoes at night, when the vast majority of transmissions occur. The African malaria mosquitoes generally bite late at night or early morning, between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. A bed net is usually hung above the center of a bed or sleeping space so that it completely covers the sleeping person. A net treated with insecticide offers about twice the protection of an untreated net and can reduce the number of mosquitoes that enter the house and the overall number of mosquitoes in the area.
Currently, nets are treated with pyrethroid insecticides. These insecticides have very low levels of toxicity to humans, but are highly toxic to insects. By repelling the mosquitoes, a bed net can protect other people in the room outside the net. When enough nets are used in an area, the insecticide used in the net fabric makes entire communities safer even for those individuals who don’t have nets.
Malaria is a disease caused by the blood parasite Plasmodium, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Infected humans experience flu-like symptoms that can result in coma and death. Malaria, from the Medieval Italian words mala aria or “bad air,” infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million— one person dies about every 30 seconds. The disease is particularly devastating in Africa, where it is a leading killer of children. In addition to being home to the deadliest strain of malaria and the mosquito best equipped to transmit the disease, many areas in Africa lack the proper infrastructure and resources to fight back.
The disease is a self-perpetuating problem with large-scale impact on societies and economies. Malaria accounts for up to half of all hospital admissions and outpatient visits in Africa. In addition to the burden on the health system, malaria illness and death cost Africa approximately $12 billion a year in lost productivity. The effects permeate almost every sector. Malaria increases school absenteeism, decreases tourism, inhibits foreign investment, and even affects the type of crops that are grown.
Malaria is Both Preventable and Treatable
Malaria is both a preventable and treatable disease. It can be prevented by giving families and individuals insecticide-treated bed nets to sleep under and taking steps to kill mosquitoes where they breed and when they enter houses to feed at night. At the same time, anti-malarial drugs such as artemisinin and other combination therapies that are widely available can treat malaria before it becomes deadly.
Malaria has been brought under control and even eliminated in many parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Yet in Africa, with increasing drug resistance and struggling health systems, malaria infections have actually increased during the last three decades.
Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is a simple and cost-effective solution to prevent malaria deaths. For just $10 (€8), we can purchase a bed net, deliver it to a family, and explain its use. Bed nets work by creating a protective barrier against mosquitoes at night, when the vast majority of transmissions occur. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for up to four years. The benefits of bed nets extend even further than the family. When enough nets are used, the insecticide used to deter mosquitoes makes entire communities safer—including even those individuals who do not have nets.
Although $10 (€8) for a bed net may not sound like much, the cost makes them out of reach for most people at risk of malaria, many of whom survive on less than $1 a day. Nets are a simple, life-saving solution, but we need your help to provide them to those in need.
Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the most effective drugs currently available for treating malaria. Less expensive ACTs need to be developed and strategies to deliver them need to be implemented and evaluated so that the therapies can be accessed by the people who need them. Artemisinin-based combination therapies are also used to help pregnant women by administering at least two monthly treatment doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. More than 70 percent of pregnant women in Africa attend prenatal clinics at least once during their pregnancy. A regime of SP helps protect pregnant women from possible death and anemia and also prevents malaria-related low birth weight in infants, which causes about 100,000 infant deaths annually in Africa.
Killing Mosquitoes through Indoor Residual Spraying
While bed nets are generally effective in Africa wherever they are consistently used, sometimes specialized teams are organized to spray an insecticide on the inside walls of houses (a process known as Indoor Residual Spraying or IRS). IRS kills female mosquitoes when they rest on sprayed surfaces after feeding on a person, reducing malaria transmission to others. Only female mosquitoes can transmit malaria. In special circumstances, teams are also organized to eliminate or treat mosquito breeding sites with another type of environmentally friendly insecticide. However, because the African malaria mosquitoes are so prolific and have such a broad range of breeding habits, this type of “larval control” may not be applicable in some areas.
· For just $10 (€8) we can buy a bed net, distribute it to a family, and explain its use.
· Insecticide-treated bed nets can keep a family safe for up to four years.
· Nothing But Nets has partnered with the Measles Initiative to deliver the nets to even the most hard-to-reach areas of Africa.
Other Facts & Historical Anecdotes about Malaria
· Only female mosquitoes can transmit malaria.
· Malaria’s etymological roots are in the Italian language, and “malaria” translates literally as “bad air,” a reference to the early belief that the disease was caused by breathing the stale, warm, humid air found around swamps.
· Four Nobel prizes have been awarded for work associated with malaria to Sir Ronald Ross (1902), Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran (1907), Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1927), and Paul Hermann Müller (1948).
· Two important, currently used anti-malarial drugs come from plants whose medicinal values have been noted for centuries: artemisinin from the Qinghao plant (Artemisia annual, China, 4th century) and quinine from the cinchona tree (South America, 17th century).
*FACT CHECKED BY THE US CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC)