Thai Days: World Malaria Day

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Hugh Paxton’s Blog was scared. Frightened. The dengue fever outbreak began at the end of the street and inched closer. Family after family went down with it. The lights in their houses went out, the hospital beds filled up.

Dengue’s bad. Last year in Thailand there were 153,765 cases and 132 deaths. It’s a nasty debilitating disease. I haven’t had it and don’t wish to try but the people I took fruit to in Bangkok hospital looked drained, in pain, and without energy. It lingers and weeks of this suffering is the Dengue signature.

Dengue arrives courtesy of everybody’s favourite insect – the mosquito. As does malaria.

Friday is World Malaria Day. The event, which will go largely unnoticed, is organized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) known as Doctor Who? Or just Who?

Dengue kills but not efficiently. Most of those afflicted suffer but survive. Malaria, also mozzie borne, is more effective. Nobody has died of malaria in Thailand this year or last year and the disease had been virtually eradicated with the help of DDT until environmentalists knocked that toxic chemical into touch and refugees from numerous Indo China wars crossed the Kingdom’s borders bringing malaria back.

According to the WHO 600,000 people will contract malaria.

Today.

About 1,800 will soon be dead.

Well over half a million people – youngsters mainly or the elderly, the poor and the already infirm – conk out each year after fevers, chills, aches, pains, delirium and no cure.

That’s the thing about malaria. There isn’t a cure. You get it and you are stuck with it.

Thai medical authorities suggest avoiding mosquitos as the most practical way of skipping malaria.

The advice is wise (and blindingly obvious) but a bit hard to follow. The fiendish little pests have been around since dinosaur times (earlier actually) and haven’t bothered evolving. They do what they do and change is of no urgency. The mozzie stuck in fossilized amber dug up from a primeval Poland forest floor looks just like the thing whining around your ears today. Although evolution is occurring to a degree. Attempts to exterminate them seem to spur adaptive avoidance behavior. A strengthening of the various species. A keener cunning.

And they still get everywhere.

Avoiding a mozzie in the tropics is an impossible proposition. Eradicating malaria? Finding a cure? Much the same, it seems.

Notes The Bangkok Post editorial (“Confronting a Killer”) “The chances of success against malaria remain as slim as ever.”

Happy World Malaria Day! Do your bit and squash a mozzie. Won’t curtail the disease but it’s so satisfying!

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