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September 09, 2003

Of Malaria and Marines

Twelve U.S. Marines who were in Liberia last month have been diagnosed with malaria and 21 other U.S. troops have symptoms of the disease, defense officials said Monday.

Twelve Marines. 21 other U.S. troops.

Yes, I understand it is news because it is our servicemembers who are suffering. I understand it is news because it is our servicemembers who are sick after being in Liberia. And yes, I understand it is news because here malaria sounds like an almost exotic thing to come down with.

But it isn't.

According to the WHO:

The disease was once more widespread but it was successfully eliminated from many countries with temperate climates during the mid 20th century. Today malaria is found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and at least one million deaths annually.

That elimination of the disease from the temperate zones was accomplished in large part through the use of DDT, which is no longer considered a viable solution. Whether it should be is a longer debate than I can do justice to this evening. There are a number of alternative solutions now being explored.

I just wanted to take a moment to point out the contrast. Malaria is below our radar now in the U.S., even though 40% of the world's population lives in areas where it is endemic.

From the WHO again:

Around 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. Malaria is Africa's leading cause of under-five mortality (20%) and constitutes 10% of the continent's overall disease burden. It accounts for 40% of public health expenditure, 30-50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of outpatient visits in areas with high malaria transmission.

And this is only one part of the disease burden that Africa bears.

No solutions tonight. Just perspective.

FOXNews article
WHO Fact Sheet: Malaria
WHO Malaria Map
WHO Fact Sheet: Liberia
Roll Back Malaria

Posted by at September 9, 2003 04:57 AM

It's interesting news to us (people who care about Africa) b/c it might mean that Larium's effectiveness is waning, and that the mosquito is winning this arms race yet again. Or maybe the Marines forgot to take their meds regularly.

I actually had a question about this news story. I read some of the articles, and they said that the Marines were taking Larium. However, if I recall correctly, the Marines are the one piece of the US govt overseas that doesn't take Larium -- officially b/c it interferes with their eyesight, unofficially b/c of the psychological strain it generates.

Posted by: Naunihal at September 15, 2003 03:50 PM

Didn't know that it had psychological effects. I'll have to read up on that.

Posted by: zombyboy at September 15, 2003 04:03 PM

Oh yeah, it most definitely does. I believe the polite wording for it is "some people may experience vivid dreams", but almost everyone I knew who was on it had vivid dreams at the very least, but usually something more intrusive, such as paranoia, jumpiness, mild depression etc. This isn't a scientific sample, but if you're taking it for a year, you have alot of opportunities for something to go weird.

Posted by: Naunihal at September 15, 2003 06:57 PM

Here's one source:

And here's the sort of thing that people are worried about:

"The Pentagon has fast-tracked the Fort Bragg slaying investigations to find out if an anti-malaria drug may have a role in several murders at the North Carolina army base, Cynthia Bowers reports."

Posted by: Naunihal at September 15, 2003 06:59 PM
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