University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Malaria and Insecticide-treated Mosquito Nets

Malaria Mortality Goes Down When Everyone Has a Mosquito Net

Photo: Louise Gubb. May 2007. The Carter Center. North Shoa, Ethiopia. Distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLIN) to prevent malaria, the country’s biggest killer disease.

Several international and charitable organizations have organized massive efforts to provide bed or mosquito nets to people in malarial areas. Most malaria is transmitted at night, and bed nets have been used for centuries as a barrier to biting mosquitoes.

Bed nets treated with long-lasting insecticides were a major breakthrough in the 1990s. These long-lasting insecticide nets (LLIN) kill or repel the insects, in addition to offering barrier protection.

The World Health Organization in 2007 issued new guidelines for distribution of mosquito nets: everyone, children and adults alike, should have bed nets, and they should be at no charge. Only in this way can whole villages and communities be protected and break the chain of infection. Earlier policies had given preference to the most vulnerable groups, and the nets were not always free although the price might be very low.

Based on early results, the combination of LLINs and widespread coverage is effective in lowering malaria rates. Mortality from malaria has been reduced by about 50% since 2000.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites and spread by mosquitoes.
About half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria. The World Health Organization estimated that nearly 200 million people were infected in 2013 with 90% of the deaths in Africa, most in children less than five years old. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to the disease. In some areas, treating malaria consumes almost half of all health care expenditures and accounts for half of outpatient visits.

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