How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 YearsBook - 2010
In recent years, malaria has emerged as a cause célèbre for voguish philanthropists. Bill Gates, Bono, and Laura Bush are only a few of the personalities who have lent their names--and opened their pocketbooks--in hopes of curing the disease. Still, in a time when every emergent disease inspires waves of panic, why aren't we doing more to eradicate one of our oldest foes? And how does a parasitic disease that we've known how to prevent for more than a century still infect 500 million people every year, killing nearly 1 million of them?
In The Fever , the journalist Sonia Shah sets out to answer these questions, delivering a timely, inquisitive chronicle of the illness and its influence on human lives. Through the centuries, she finds, we've invested our hopes in a panoply of drugs and technologies, and invariably those hopes have been dashed. From the settling of the New World to the construction of the Panama Canal, through wars and the advances of the Industrial Revolution, Shah tracks malaria's jagged ascent and the tragedies in its wake, revealing a parasite every bit as persistent as the insects that carry it. With distinguished prose and original reporting from Panama, Malawi, Cameroon, India, and elsewhere, The Fever captures the curiously fascinating, devastating history of this long-standing thorn in the side of humanity.
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Sonia Shah, a journalist whose memories of childhood visits to India include the bed nets her relatives used to protect her from exposure to malaria, writes about malaria and the difficulties in eradicating, or even controlling, the disease. She describes the origins of the various strains of human malaria, then describes how the presence of malaria in Africa limited European efforts to colonize that continent and how the slave trade contributed to the spread of the disease. Next, she considers the ecological conditions that favor or limit the spread of the disease. The remainder of the book is devoted to her discussions of efforts to contain the disease through the use of drugs such as quinine and chloroquine, the use of pesticides such as DDT to kill the mosquito vector, and the destruction of mosquito habitat through improved drainage or the removal of dams. Shah also discusses how these efforts have been limited by antibiotic and pesticide resistance, limited access to medical care in the developing world, and cultural differences.
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