Malaria is the most common mosquito-borne disease. It is estimated that as much as 40% of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria, and the disease claims one million human lives annually. Malaria is also the fourth most common cause of death among children living in developing countries. The high rates of malaria infection are partly due to limited treatment options. To this day, no malaria vaccine has been developed. Considering the advanced state of modern medical technology and knowledge, it may come as a surprise to learn that malaria infection rates remain at epidemic levels. Given the seriousness of this disease today, one cannot help but to wonder how past civilizations viewed malaria, especially considering the utter lack of malaria treatment options available for most of human history. One does not need to study history for long before one realizes how significantly malaria has influenced the course of humankind’s history.
During the Greek period, Alexander the Great succeeded in conquering staggering amounts of territory. When Alexander was at the height of his power he fell ill after contracting some kind of disease, and modern scholars believe that this disease was malaria. Once Alexander died, his empire crumbled and ended. Considering this historical event, the influence with which mosquitoes have determined the course of history cannot be overestimated. It is interesting to ponder how radically different history would have unfolded had Alexander not sustained bites from disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The Romans were no strangers to the deadly consequences of malaria infection either. However, at the time, malaria was not necessarily viewed as a preventable illness, let alone an illness caused by bites from infected mosquitoes. As far as the Romans were aware, malaria was a mysterious illness that caused numerous deaths during the summer season. In response to this seemingly supernatural illness, the Romans could do nothing more than pray to the gods for mercy. The barbarian tribes often fell victim to malaria during military campaigns into Roman territories. As dangerous as the disease was to the Romans, they were at least grateful that the disease aided in the defeat of barbarian hordes that regularly invaded regions controlled by the Romans.
Do you think that developed western nations should put more effort into decreasing malaria infection rates in impoverished nations?