This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some Simple Solutions for Controlling Malaria

An incredible amount of money and energy goes into controlling malaria, and all of it is worthwhile if we can bring this dreadful disease under control. But it seems that simple solutions help out. Economics Professor Ross McKitrick at the University of Guelph in Canada and two Finnish colleagues have analyzed data showing that, after controlling for a host of other factors, sleeping arrangements make a difference in malaria rates.
"Malaria-bearing mosquitoes mainly feed at night, and tend to return to the same location for blood meals. The more people who sleep in one area, the greater the likelihood of an infected mosquito spreading the parasite to a new, uninfected victim." 
"It is a common misconception that malaria is a tropical disease, and with 90 per cent of malaria deaths taking place in Africa, it is easy to see why people believe this," said McKitrick.
"But historically, malaria has occurred in all climate zones including the Arctic, and was endemic in North America and Europe a hundred years ago. In many cases, the disease disappeared even in countries that made no efforts to fight it, while others that tried to eradicate it failed. We found declining average household size key to explaining this pattern. "
As household size continues to decline, said McKitrick, malaria should gradually disappear. But countries need not wait for that to happen. "The key factor is segmenting sleeping quarters and greater use of bed nets in those countries where malaria is still prevalent," he said.
A related story reveals that malaria would be essentially non-existent in the US if people didn't contract it outside the country and then bring it back with them. And why does that happen? "Travelers can protect themselves by taking malaria drugs before and during a trip. Only a fraction of the 2011 cases took the right drugs." A sad commentary on the sanity of travelers.

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