Spread of malaria continues to trump Zika concern

The threat and spread of malaria continue to overshadow the growing Zika virus concern.

The spread of the Zika virus has been alarming, but the real issue stems from the source of the spreading: the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The mosquito is also responsible for the spread of dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Although the Zika virus has been spreading, yellow fever already leads to approximately 30,000 deaths per year. The mosquito also carries malaria, which led to 438,000 deaths in 2015, with 214 million infected.

“The most dangerous animal in the world is the female anopheles mosquito,” Timothy Ziemer, who is leading the president’s Malaria Initiative, said. “More people have died of malaria than all the famines and all the world wars put together.”

African countries are the hardest-hit areas, with 19 of those in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mortality rate has decreased as treatment rates have increased. Ziemer believes that the issues come from the shift of political priorities. 

“There has been a significant shift in mindset,” he said.

It’s important to make sure that public health officials continue to make malaria a priority.

“We can’t let up,” Ziemer said. “All of us who understand malaria know that the minute we take our eye off the ball, malaria is going to come back. … Let’s celebrate success, but let’s keep our sleeves rolled up and our heads down.”

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