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Malaria

Writing about Howard Carter and King Tut below, we noticed that King Tut probably died of avascular bone necrosis and malaria.

Malaria once was a killer in Europe and Britain, where it may first have arrived with the Romans. The Wellcome Trust reports -

From the 15th century onwards, malaria was endemic along the coasts and estuaries of south-east England, the Fenlands, and estuarine and marshland coastal areas of northern England. The growth in international trade in the 16th century contributed to the spread of disease, as international traders introduced new sources of infection.

However, in the 17th century, Robert Talbor, an English apothecary's apprentice, pioneered the use of cinchona (quinine) in treating malaria -

His secret remedy cured many sufferers in the Fens and Essex marshes before it was administered to King Charles II and notable European royalty. Talbor received an honorary knighthood and was appointed Royal Physician.

In the 20th century, Ronald Ross discovered the key role of certain types of mosquito in malaria's transmission. Malaria is caused by parasites of the species Plasmodium. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes reproduce by laying their eggs in stagnant pools, which Ross helped to eradicate in the United Kingdom. When soldiers with malaria returned from Thessalonika after the First World War, the mini malaria epidemic was contained.

This has made Britain seem an unlikely place to be ill with malaria - until recently. The Wellcome Trust reports that in the 1950s locally transmitted malaria had died out. In the 1970s, 200 imported cases of malaria were reported. These numbers have since risen.

We take our next figures from the UK Health Protection Agency's detailed report -

"There were 1370 cases of malaria reported in the UK in 2008, a slight decline on the 1548 cases reported in 2007 and the 1758 cases of malaria reported in 2006. . . Over 70% of malaria cases are caused by (the potentially fatal) Plasmodium falciparum and this high proportion of falciparum malaria has been sustained over many years, reflecting the fact most malaria imported to the UK is acquired in Africa. . .The ratio of malaria in UK residents visiting friends and relatives compared with malaria cases acquired in holiday travellers was around 7:1. . ."

The annual average of deaths was nine. This compares with the 863 000 malaria deaths which occurred worldwide in 2008; 767 000 of those (89%) occurred in Africa.

Why is Britain largely free from malaria today?

Because we can bring all the advances of civilisation to bear, including education, good drainage, the science to develop prophylactic drugs and cures, the businesses that can deliver them, the doctors to prescribe them and the patients who can afford them because they have paying jobs generated by our economy.

I think this is something to think about.

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