Tag Archives: malaria

Yes Ma’am, this is a worldwide threat

Commando aiming rifle
Malaria is a bigger killer than Ebola

Worse than Ebola? Yes, definitely.

But not so ugly. Not so compelling to our morbid fascination with blood and pain and suffering.

Yesterday, Her Majesty the Queen reminded us* that our top-of-mind preoccupation with Ebola is deflecting us from an even greater threat.

One that kills more victims every day than the current Ebola outbreak has in total.

Malaria.

A threat to us all

You see, Ebola might be lethal, but we CAN actually kill it.

As a virus out in the open, we can attack it by oxidising, which rips its individual cells to pieces. Or we can blitz with ultra violet light, which destroys its DNA.

But malaria is not a virus. It’s a parasite spread by mosquitoes.

And like Ebola at the moment, there is no vaccine for it.

Make no mistake, malaria is way more deadly.

In 2012 the World Health Organisation put half the world at risk from malaria with 207 million cases reported and 627,000 deaths. Most of these were children under 15 – from parasites passed on by their mothers.

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 200,000 infants die from it every year.

One child every 60 seconds.

So Her Majesty is right, we’re taking our eye off the ball.

We need to beat both Ebola and malaria in the same way.

Treat cause, not symptoms

Our mothers taught us this, but we never seem to remember – PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.

Get to both of these killers before they get to us, and we’re safe.

In fact striking the first blow is fast becoming our most effective weapon.

Because right now, health professionals around the world are seriously worried about resistance to both these diseases.

Yesterday was European Antibiotic Awareness Day – underlined by the threat that more and more bacteria are developing immunity to treatment by antibiotics.

Widespread use, particularly through agriculture, has led to many antibiotics becoming completely ineffective. At a stroke, our major defence against infections – particularly in hospital surgical procedures – is gone.

Which means as soon as we find a cure for Ebola, it may be defeated. We need to clobber it first.

It’s the same with malaria.

Get those mosquitoes

Saturation use by agriculture of the insecticide DDT – originally intended as an indoor residual spray (IRS) – led to mosquitoes developing an immunity and a return to epidemic levels in poorer parts of the world like Ivory Coast, Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Mali. The parasites are also drug resistant.

Sure mosquito nets help, especially those one treated with pyrethroids – made from an organic compound found naturally in the flowers of pyrethrum lilies. Harmless to humans, it attacks the nervous system of the mosquito and kills it.

Problem solved – but with a downside.

It’s also toxic to bees, fish and cats.

Bees pollinate the flowers of fruit trees and other food plants – and already this year bees in Britain are becoming scarce because of the warm, wet summer. Fish of course, are part of a whole long food chain. And cats have a whole army of people on their side.

So it’s back to DDT, as long as it’s used indoors. But pyrethroids work and are highly effective at killing mosquitoes. Along with other insecticides, they just need care.

Same thing with viruses and bacteria. They’re easily oxidised – particularly by ionised hydrogen peroxide. A quick spray of super-fine mist and ALL germs are gone – the whole place is sterilised.

Problem solved again – but also with a downside.

Oxidising kills ALL viruses and bacteria – including the useful ones. So again care has to be taken in how it’s done. Treating empty indoor areas room-by-room works best. Without people present there is no hazard and sterile rooms are safe to use afterwards.

Care and diligence

As long as we are watchful and careful, both Ebola and malaria can be overcome – and other dread diseases besides.

Thank you, Your Majesty, for bringing us up to the mark.

*At the launch a new leadership academy at Chatham House in London.

Originally posted 2014-11-19 14:53:50.

Is Ebola next door, under cover?

Crouching Man
What will you do if the unthinkable happens?

In front of the TV with a good cup of tea, it’s kind of hard to believe.

People in Africa are so desperate to improve their lives, they’re actually dying to get here.

Whatever it takes

A lot of them are genuine immigrants. Thanks to lapses by the under-staffed UK Border Agency, a lot of them are not. Half a million have already fallen off the list – and that doesn’t include the other half million or so living here illegally.

We seen it on the TV though – desperate young men, swarming aboard UK-bound lorries caught in tailbacks outside Calais. Crowds of them over-running the ferry terminals, badly-injured hopefuls hauled out from under Eurostar trains.

When you’re desperate, anything goes – including living as a fugitive once you get here.

Super risky

With luck and the right connections, a young man from Freetown in Sierra Leone might make it across Saharan Africa, over to Italy in a leaky boat, and north to Calais in as little as ten days.

A few hairy moments, scrambling aboard a lorry bound cross-Channel – and the dream world starts, living with friends and relatives in UK.

Dream or nightmare.

Without papers, signing on for any form of benefits is difficult. So is getting a job that pays. But with perseverance, a lowly washing-up job at an under-the-counter rate half the minimum wage is possible.

Which is when the problems start.

Is that the flu, or just getting used to freezing cold Britain?

More than a sickie

The fever, the chest pains, the loss of appetite and red eyes. Maybe it’s malaria. There’s lots of mosquitoes in Sierra Leone. Hard to stand for hours washing up when you’re sick – but you need the money.

Uh huh. Ebola has an incubation period of twenty-one days. A ticking time-bomb.

And look at the panic in New York.

Out of time

A young doctor, Craig Spencer, returns from Ebola relief work with Médecins Sans Frontières‎ in Guinea. He goes for a 3-mile jog, visits the local park, takes a ride on the subway, hails a taxi to a Brooklyn bowling alley. After six days the sickness starts – fever and diarrhoea. Ebola positive. Immediate isolation in Bellevue Hospital.

Not so easy when you’re illegal. So your friends cover up.

That nice African family next-door? Scared people with a guilty secret.

Out of luck

Because in the second week, it gets serious. Sore throat, headache, fatigue – you have to stay in bed.

But you’re not supposed to be here. You’re too ill to go to a NHS Walk-in and a doctor won’t come to you. Your friends care for you as best they can.

Reality hits. It’s not flu. It’s not malaria – you’re much too ill for that. And Ebola is haemorrhagic, you’re bleeding all over the place.

Your friends do their best. But they’re not doctors – and they dare not tell anybody. Your bloody towels and sheets go into a plastic bag in the wheelie bin outside. It’s a week before the council do a pickup.

Out of action

It’s a one-way ticket and you’re not coming back. But still nobody knows.

When the inevitable happens, your friends do they only thing they can. They’re illegal too and cannot risk exposure.

One of them has a car. At three in the morning, a bigger plastic bag is loaded up and dropped in the River Lee. It’s two days before police find the body, washed ashore in the Lockwood Reservoir.

Alarm bells

London’s first local Ebola case. A contaminated water supply. Where has the victim been? What contacts did he have? How many others might be infected? Where does anyone start?

Are we safe enough? Yes, probably.

Ebola spreads by direct contact and our medical teams are on the ball. And say what you like about the NHS, when the chips are down they’re as professional as anywhere in the world.

We shall overcome

We might not look like it any more – with so many of us also from other parts of the world – but we’re the Brits who stood up the the Blitz.

Next door, wherever – we can beat this thing and we will.

Originally posted 2014-10-24 12:46:41.

British winner to take down malaria killer

Gin & Tonic
Cheers! A good G&T won’t
cure malaria, but it will
make you feel better

If you blinked you missed it.

The amazing news hidden deep among all the wars, disasters, Ebola scares and nonsense of electing the World’s First Joke Prime Minister.

End of a world killer?

British drug giant Glaxo Smith Kline has applied for a licence for a new vaccine to defeat malaria, the first-ever defence against this world-killer that looks like being successful.

Four infection types exist to give us grief in our lives – bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Malaria is by far the worst parasite to invade our bodies and has always ranked high on our list of killer dread diseases.

For the children’s sake

Now for the first time, we might be able to beat it – and significantly the new vaccine is designed specifically to work with children – African children, who are currently dying at one a minute from this terrible affliction – many more times worse than Ebola will ever be.

Actual figures are staggering – 198 MILLION cases in 2013, with 584,000 deaths. And this is one of those where disinfecting and watchful hygiene doesn’t help much – though malaria can be transmitted through contaminated blood.

The most effective defence is mosquito nets – and a darned good insecticide to clobber the anopheles mosquito (only the female of the species) that transmits it.

In the 1940s, the wonder-chemical DDT used to be it (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) – a highly effective insecticide now banned across most of the world for the dangers it brings to the food chain and links to chronic illnesses.

Despite its high efficiency, DDT was found to be so poisonous in its side effects that over-use triggered the American watchdog Environmental Protection Agency in 1962. It killed mosquitoes, but it killed too many humans too.

The world is winning

Killer though it is, malaria is treatable if diagnosed and treated early. But with medical services stretched thin throughout the world’s tropical regions – as the current Ebola crisis demonstrates – treatment is not always possible.

The new vaccine, called RTS,S, is not infallible – but manages to reduce cases among toddlers by 36%. In parallel with this vaccine is an American alternative PfSPZ, intended for adults and still at the trial stage.

It may be too early to toast the success of either – though a celebratory glass may be appropriate if you’ve ever caught malaria and been lucky enough to be treated for it.

Think of England

In the days of Empire, gin and tonic was invented as a refreshing drink that masked the bitter taste of the anti-malarial quinine ingredient added to it.

On behalf of all the African children who now stand a fighting chance – cheers!