World Health Organization Warns About Impending Malaria Global Crisis
BU GIA MAP, Vietnam is a rural district in the Southeast region of Vietnam. It is where Tran Viet Hung, a soldier, has been patrolling. It is in the same forested hills in the south of Vietnam where, six years ago, this soldier came down with chills and fever with malaria, as he tested positive and spent several days to recover in a government clinic.
Hung said that modern technology will fix everything and it will be fine. He is now at a rubber plantation in Bu Gia Map District working as a farmhand.
There is logic in his line of thoughts: Malaria’s Death tolls are unheard of in Vietnam and there were only 85 people that died from mosquito-borne diseases across the mainland of Southeast Asia in the year 2015. Fifteen years prior to the said casualties, there were more than 4,000 people that weren’t lucky enough to survive the disease as reported by a California tank based company, the Global Health Group.
The two-drug combination pills containing artemisinin, an inexpensive but effective drug that was invented in China decades ago have successfully battled what was once a leading cause of death. As modern medicine combats Malaria, a new drug-resistant strain of the disease is impervious to artemisinin and piperaquine. This strain threatens to upend the efforts for the worldwide attempt in eradicating the disease.
Public Health officials have been able to track the spread of the deadly disease, falciparum malaria parasites not only in Vietnam but also in Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.
It was in October that the presence of the parasite was tracked in Binh Phuoc. Experts worry about the resistance that could spread to sub-Saharan Africa. It is where malaria kills nearly 3,000 children in a day despite the use of artemisinin. According to Dr. Aruen M. Dondoro, co-author of the Lancet study and Director of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine research unit in Bangkok, the virus has the potential to spread. He even added that we should be worried that other countries in Southeast Asia can be affected by this and it will reach Africa at some point.
This is a big concern since the drug-resistant virus is not a fiction. World War II’s miracle cure was Chloroquine. The resistance has spread from the west in Cambodia to the sub-Saharan Africa via India. This has made the drug useless. A similar resistance from Asia to Africa has occurred later with Fansidar. Fansidar is a blend of two drugs, the pyrimethamine, and sulfadoxine. The experts fear that they are losing artemisinin and its partner drugs the same way.
According to protocols under the World Health Organization, artemisinin must always be paired with at least one other drug. Artemisinin kills rapidly and disappears from the blood within a day or two. The treatment is a three-day regimen pairing the drug with other less effective but longer-lasting drugs to mop up the remaining parasites. The resistance on Artemisinin has begun emerging in Southeast Asia about a decade ago after pharmaceutical companies unregulated sold pills that contained only the drug itself.
The evidence is growing that the drug combinations are also failing that leads to experts arguing how to move on forward.
The ambitious but noble goal of eliminating falciparum. The fight against Malaria gained international support and donors are in an attempt to eliminate the said diseases by 2030. The WHO, as well as other concerned agencies, is trying hard to get rid of such disease plunging the Southeast Asian region. They have estimated the success to cost $2.4 billion that accounts to 91, 000 lives saved and $9 billion in lost productivity and extra medical cost. Mosquito nets distribution and training health workers were also part of the effort.
The new strain of Malaria getting into Africa would be catastrophic according to Dr. Christopher V. Plowe. The challenge other than the resistance of the strain is the people living in forests and jungles are hard to monitor. What makes it worse is the conflict along Myanmar’s border and China and Vietnamese medical official, Dr. Do Kim Giang, worked in Bu Gia Map District saw that there is no hope in eradicating Malaria in the area. He stated that we can only prevent cases from turning deadly.
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