Photo Courtesy of The Global Fund

Photo Courtesy of The Global Fund

Today is #WorldMosquitoDay. Rather than give this pesky creature its own awareness day, many are trying to change the story (and hashtag) to #WorldMalariaDay. Why? Because according to the CDC, mosquitoes cause more malaria deaths and disease than any other animal on the planet.

Many of these diseases you have heard of, many you have not: Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and the list goes on. The mosquito gets the blame for spreading these horrible diseases but it is the parasites and viruses that are the real culprits. The infectious agents are catching a ride in the mosquito’s stomach and glands. When the mosquito looks for a meal and you are bitten, diseases get into your bloodstream to do their damage.

Sir Ronald Ross, a 19th-century British scientist, figured out how the malaria parasite travels through mosquitoes to humans while working for the Indian Medical Service in the 1890s. He won the Nobel Prize for his achievement, discovering that the female anopheles mosquito transmits malaria. Almost 130 years later, malaria occurs in nearly 100 countries worldwide, exacting a huge toll on human health and imposing a heavy social and economic burden in developing countries. An estimated 207 million people suffered from the disease in 2012, and about 627,000 died. About 90 percent of the deaths were in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 77 percent were among children under the age of 5 whose small bodies are less able to battle the parasite.

Malaria is a top priority for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and at the top of their investment funds. “Millions of children have died from malaria because they were not protected by an insecticide-treated bed net, or did not receive effective treatment,” said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Gates Foundation. “If we expand malaria control programs, and invest what’s needed in R&D, we can stop this tragedy.”

The best proven way to ward off diseases and prevent is with the distribution of bed nets and indoor spraying with strong insecticides. Business Connect will soon be carrying a line of mosquito nets that will be available online and through our international distribution network. For such a small cost, every traveler to a region at risk should carry these items not only for their own use, but to share with children in developing countries.

There is hope for the future. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have announced that the European Medicines Agency has given the go-ahead for a vaccine. Professor David Schellenberg, Professor of Malaria and International Health at the School, said: “The road to a licensed malaria vaccine has been very long. We frequently hear of ‘breakthroughs’ in the vaccine development but the evaluation course is long and complicated and many high hopes are followed by disappointments as potential vaccines fail safety or efficacy tests. The European Medicines Agency’s approval of RTS,S is a true milestone: for the first time we have a malaria vaccine approved to help reduce the intolerable burden of malaria.”

Check to see if the country you are traveling to next has a high incident rate of exposure and be sure to take precautions!

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