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Malaria’s Perpetual Transmission


Scientists have discovered that even back in the Jurassic era, mosquitoes carried and spread malaria, infecting prehistoric animals with the disease. Malaria proved as potentially fatal to these prehistoric animals, and it continues to be deadly even now, millions of years later.


Malaria has had an exceptionally long lifespan as a disease. With its patient zero existing at least prior to 150 million years ago, known to have infected prehistoric creatures, it seems shocking that malaria is still being transmitted to this day. In fact, there are many such diseases that date back this far, including Lyme disease and filariasis. But how is it possible for these epidemics to persist?


As discussed in lecture, it is possible for a disease to be transmitted for essentially forever. If the number of contacts and probability of transmission are high enough, every infected person will pass the disease off to another person. When every infected person infects another, it becomes possible that the disease will continue to be passed on and on for eternity. Having effected humans and animals for such a long amount of time, malaria’s basic reproductive number must likely be at this level, getting transmitted at a frequency that it is virtually impossible for the disease to stop spreading and die off.


Since a disease’s number of contacts and probability of transmission are the main proponents of its spread, it is logical that most efforts against its transmission are related to isolating mosquitoes from humans. Through reducing swamp land, putting up wire nets, and other actions to block mosquitoes away from the population, malaria’s basic reproductive number is slowly being driven down. Yet, in its current state, it is likely to continue to be passed on and on. Hopefully in the near future, through a combination of further decreasing the disease’s number of contacts, as well as reducing its probability of transmission, one day malaria will “die off” and its transmission will end.



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