When you speak of Central Africa and missionaries, the subject of malaria will inevitably come into the conversation at some point. Speaking of malaria someone said, "It is another rite of passage" for the African missionary. To punctuate this point, especially in Malawi, all one has to do is travel along the shores of Lake Malawi and view the gravemarkers of missionaries that came here 100 years ago. Most of them perished from malaria.
Malaria is a word of Italian origin. It is derived from the words male aria which means bad air. According to the World Health Organization:
- Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
- A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.
- Malaria takes the life of 3,000 children each day in Africa.
- One million people die from malaria each year.
Malaria symptoms typically appear 10 to 16 days after the infectious mosquito bite, when the infected red blood cells begin to burst. Victims experience flu-like symptoms, including chills, fever, sweating, along with nausea, headache, and vomiting.
The most virulent form of the disease – the P. falciparum malaria (found predominately in Africa) – can be fatal within a matter of hours if not treated.
Malaria can be cured with prompt diagnosis and correct drug treatment. But there is a double-burden of increased drug resistance and limited access to health care in many of the most malaria-prone areas. Prevention is the key to saving lives.
This is the drug administered to me by the doctor. There are only three tablets, taken in a 24-hour period. I am both fortunate and blessed, because I can afford the medicine, live in a place where I can get the medicine, and I discovered early that I was infected. Many are not as fortunate!