Malaria tough to beat: Canadian Press review of The Fever

At Canadian Press, Carl Hartman reviewed The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, a dramatic work of non-fiction about malaria and mosquitoes by Sonia Shah (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2010).  Hartman concluded:

Evidence of mosquito resistance to the drug has been recently reported.

Shah is skeptical of a surge of private charity that emphasizes the use of mosquito nets following the decline of government-led anti-malaria programs in the 1990s. Acknowledging the contributions of Bill Gates and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, she lists Veto the ‘Squito, a youth-led charity; Nothing but Nets, an anti-malarial basketball charity; and World Swim Against Malaria. She quotes The New York Times as decrying “hip ways to show you care.”

Her own comment: “Just because something is simple doesn’t necessarily mean that people will do it.”

“(T)he schools, roads, clinics, secure housing and good governance that enable regular prevention and prompt treatment must be built,” she concludes. “Otherwise the cycle of depression and resurgence will begin anew; malaria will win, as it always has.”

Anti-environmentalists, anti-scientists, and other conservatives won’t like the book:  It says we can’t beat malaria cheaply by just spreading a lot of poison on Africa and Africans.

Especially if you’re doing the noble thing and vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, or Mississippi, or Louisiana, you may want to read this.  If you’re vacationing in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vinyard, or Cannes, buy several copies to pass out at dinner with your friends.



4 Responses to Malaria tough to beat: Canadian Press review of The Fever

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Dear AM (American Mercenary),

    Never forget the Battle of Trenton.

    It is true that bednets are not the one, perfect solution.

    It is also true that bednets work well, even with imperfections in delivery included, and it is also true that bednets work better than DDT.

    Neither of those solutions alone can save Africa — but if anyone had to choose between cheap and effective and not-so-cheap and not-quite-as-effective, which way would the wise money go?

    See here: World Malaria Day 2010, April 25

    And here: Beating malaria without DDT

    And here: World malaria politics, every day
    And here: World Malaria Day brings out the DDT-poisoned claims – Beware the ill-informed cynics.

    And here: Fighting malaria with reason

    And here: War on malaria: Wall Street Journal and bloggers side with malaria

    Typically, DDT spraying can help reduce malaria by 25% to 50%, if the local populations of mosquitoes are not resistant or immune to it, at a cost of about $25 per hut, per year. Typically bednets can help reduce malaria by 50% to 85%, regardless the pesticide resistance of local mosquito populations, at a cost of about $2 per net, per year. Much better effectiveness, much lower cost — nets seem to be the more sensible solution.


  2. AM says:

    Data suggest that, at least in some places, nearly half of Africans who have access to the nets refuse to sleep under them.



  3. Ed Darrell says:

    What traditions in Africa prevent the beating of malaria? In the past half-decade, there’s been a lot of progress on the prevention side of the equation when malaria fighters dropped their old assumptions about how Africans would act, and passed out bed nets for free, with instructions on how to use them.

    I’ll wager Africans are more anxious to conquer malaria in their towns than Europeans are.


  4. AM says:


    I majored in Biochem, so I know that overuse of a molecule selects for resistance to that molecule. Whether it be antibiotics, antimalarials, antifungals, pesticide or herbicide.

    However, as an infantry officer I also know that there is no such thing as a perfect weapon, only an appropriate mix of weapons. DDT, repellents, modern sewage, wetlands draining, education, medical clinics, etc. The appropriate mix of solution provides redundancy for a larger success rate.

    The biggest problem with malaria in Africa is Africans. Whereas the US and Europe considered malaria eradication a priority, it’s difficult to go against the traditions of Africans that prevent the use of treated netting or other efforts.

    But hey, what should we care? It’s not like it’s our problem right?


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