April 25 marks the annual celebration of World Malaria Day when malaria organizations and the public join together to increase awareness about this deadly but preventable disease. The theme for this year’s event is Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria which speaks to the need to invest resources to reach the goal of near-zero malaria deaths by 2015.
Roll Back Malaria estimates that 3.3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, are at risk for contracting malaria. Children under age 5 make up 86% of malaria deaths. According to Malaria No More, every minute a child dies from the disease.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes infected with the parasite Plasmonium. Once inside the human body, the parasite multiplies and begins to affect the red blood cells. If not treated, malaria can disrupt blood flow to vital organs, which becomes life-threatening.
Although according to WHO 655,000 people died of malaria in 2010, the disease is both preventable and treatable. Since 2000 when the global community seriously began combating malaria, mortality rates have fallen 25% worldwide and 33% in the WHO African Region. The most common prevention measure for malaria is an insecticide-treated mosquito net that protects people at night when most transmissions occur.
Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces its symptoms and prevents death. The best available treatment is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Both the diagnostic tests and the medicine given need to be used strategically to reduce malaria deaths and the risk of the parasite becoming resistant to the medication.
The battle to end malaria has come a long way in recent years, but it is important to still spread the word about the disease so it can be fully eradicated. On World Malaria Day, raise awareness of malaria in your community and participate in the global conversation through the Facebook and Twitter pages of Roll Back Malaria and Malaria No More. Together we can help make malaria a disease of the past.