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World malaria day to be celebrated April 25, 2010

An Anopheles mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host.
An Anopheles mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host.
Photo: CDC/Dr. William Collins, 2004

Around the world, as well as in Tuscaloosa and West Alabama, April 25, 2010, is World Malaria Day. This year, the theme is Counting Malaria Out.  It is a day to recognize and celebrate efforts around the globe to find and distribute effective treatments to control malaria.  Just a few of the well known organizations participating in the effort are UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  CDC contributes to malaria control through the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), a U.S. government interagency initiative to reduce the malaria burden in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria is a parasitic infection that is caused by one of 4 members of the genus Plasmodium.  It is a disease that is transmitted between individuals by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito.  Globally, there are several hundred million cases of malaria every year.  Infections can be serious and potentially fatal, especially if caused by Plasmodium falciparum.  Unfortunately, over one million individuals die from this disease every year.  Most of the fatalities are young children who live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In areas where malaria is typically transmitted, risks can be diminished by using preventive medications, insecticides and sleeping under bed nets.  If malaria is contracted, there are a number of anti-malarial drugs that may be used to treat the infection.  Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment may be given orally or intravenously.

Since 2000, 44 African leaders have committed their countries to cutting malaria deaths in half by 2010.  The increased resources have boosted malaria control efforts.  These interventions are showing progress, with decreased malaria-related morbidity and mortality in several African countries.  However, this year is critical because the international malaria community has less than a year to meet the 2010 targets of delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria.

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