Malaria's unwelcome comeback


_76940907_img_1369Once, a long time ago, we were pioneers in erradicating malaria, but now the endemic disease is more rooted than ever in Venezuela. Yet even if we have addressed this theme several times before, a couple of very different yet completely related reports give us a clear prespective than this disease is here to stay.

The first one comes from BBC Mundo’s correspondent Daniel Pardo, who went to the place considered as “ground zero of malaria”: Sifontes Municipality, deep down in Bolívar State in southeastern Venezuela.

In his piece, Pardo interviews illegal miner Jesus Cañas (seen in the photo), who has catched malaria 54 times (according to his personal count). His family has caught it on multiple ocassions as well. However he won’t stop working in the mines looking for gold. Why? His answer is quite simple:

Here you can earn more money than elsewhere; with just one pan (of gold) you catch in a day what you will earn with the monthly minimum wage.”

With illegal mining booming, lack of proper health infrastructure on the area, and insufficient precautions, the disease has found a fine place to spread not just there, but also reaching places close to Caracas.

How have things changed in the last fifteen years? The numbers are staggering. This article from the latest edition of The Lancet, a well-known medical publication, makes it clear:

In Venezuela, in 1998, there were 21 815 malaria cases; in 2013, there were a total of 76 621 reported cases… and estimates suggest that the number of cases will continue to rise. As of May 11—17, data from the Venezuelan Ministry of Health show that for 2014, there have been 29 931 reported cases, thus an alarming average 1 497 cases per week.

While the World has seen an important fall in the number of malaria cases in recent years (for example, Brazil and Colombia have seen their number of cases cut in half), Venezuela is going the other way. As the title of the article indicates, the country has failed. And that’s not the only nasty bug we need to worry about…

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  1. Malaria is not a virus. It’s an intracellular parasitic infections. Most arthropod illnesses are virus derived… but not malaria.

    (and that’s not the only virus) closing sentence

  2. Having had malaria’s nasty cousin dengue twice, I know that you want access to decent medical care and some support structure around while you are getting functional again. I doubt very much that most cases are reported or that most people get medical attention. I doubt that a lot of people even recognize the symptoms, or know how it spreads.

    My understanding is that there are effective ways to control this and the regime has failed miserably in this area of public health, as in many areas. Having said that, I do wonder if there are some larger climatic or other forces at play as well. People are apparently showing up with dengue and chikungunya in places like Florida now and they are spreading throughout the Carribean and tropical areas in Mexico. The thing about malaria is there is a prophylaxis, but it is not the kind of thing you can live your life on, and for some people it literally makes them crazy.

    Not good.

  3. First off great report. Kudos and thanks.
    One syntax observation: Malaria is CAUGHT not CATCHED , unless on a computer server or some such thing.


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