The Magazine

Marsh Fever

Now largely a tropical disease, malaria was once a global blight.

Aug 4, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 44 • By KEVIN R. KOSAR
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Finally, there is the matter of climate and topography, key factors that Packard underplays. Temperature, humidity, and rainfall levels affect the ability of malaria to spread. Temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit stunt the spread of the vicious falciparum species of plasmodium. Similarly, different parts of the earth are more favorable to the propagation of different species of Anopheles mosquitoes. Anopheles gambiae, a very efficient transmitter of malaria, breeds best in the environmental conditions found in the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. Not surprisingly, countries there are swarmed with Anopheles gambiae and deadly malaria cases. So, yes--malaria once clobbered Archangel's residents, but Zambia's inhabitants have suffered regularly for centuries.

All of which is to say that there is only so much man can do. First World efforts to economically and socially modernize Third World countries often fail. We cannot lower the temperature or reduce the rainfall in the tropical areas where malaria remains endemic. Regrettably, absent a miraculous medical breakthrough--the anti-plasmodium vaccine pursued by the Gates Foundation, and others--we can expect malaria to continue to afflict and kill people in tropical areas for the foreseeable future.

Kevin R. Kosar is a writer in Washington.