Deaths from malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, may be severely underestimated worldwide, according to a study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 655,000 malaria deaths worldwide for 2010, but the Lancet study suggests that 1.24 million people may have actually died from the disease in 2010.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the research built a “historical database for malaria between 1980 and 2010,” which showed the rise and fall of malaria deaths over the years (BBC). Variable influencing the data included increased populations at risk for the disease and concentrated efforts and aid from abroad to help control the spread of malaria in Africa.
The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Malaria, and Tuberculosis is one organization committed to fighting infectious diseases in developing countries. Efforts to combat malaria mostly center around the distribution of bed nets, which protect people from being bitten by infected mosquitoes while they sleep.
Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, said that “since 2004, the number of malaria deaths has dropped by a third, and that’s really been the time when the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has swung into action.”
The bottom line is that the WHO has been overly optimistic in its estimates of deaths from malaria worldwide. While attempts to control the spread of malaria have been somewhat successful, eradication of the disease is not possible for the foreseeable future in many countries.
You can help fight malaria in Africa by supporting organizations like the Global Fund and the Nothing But Nets Campaign. All of the 1.24 million malaria deaths in 2010 could have been prevented– let’s help bring those numbers down!
Photo from wild_turkey5300 via flickr