Statistically, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, crushed by a vending machine, or flattened by falling airplane parts than to be killed by a shark.
In terms of deadliest animals, sharks barely make the top ten and are superseded by the vicious jellyfish (100 human deaths per year) and hippopotami (200 DPY).
Clocking in at #7 are lions (250)
#6 Bees (400)
#5 Elephants (600)
#4 Crocodiles (2000)
#3 Scorpians (5000)
#2 Snakes (100,000)
But the death toll of all these murderers together wouldn’t be a tenth of Public Health Enemy #1:
Weighing in at 2.5 milligrams and half an inch in length, the Mosquito kills 2 to 5 million people each year, from one disease alone: Malaria.
Today on World Malaria Day (formerly Africa Malaria Day) organizations such as WHO are getting the word out about the leading cause of premature mortality in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria consumes four out of every ten public health dollars, and one out of every five children in sub-Saharan countries will die of malaria before their fifth birthday. 3000 every day.
A Harvard study in the year 2000 found that, had Malaria been eliminated 35 years earlier, the GDPs of Central and Southern African nations would be 30% higher today.
The vast majority of the infected are children in Africa, but the disease also effects South and Central America, the Indian subcontinent, and Southern Asia.
What can we do about it?
From 1992 to 2006, despite medical advances with other diseases, malaria infection and mortality rates actually increased, as strains of malaria became resistant to drugs such as chloroquine. Once cheap and readily-available, chloroquine is now ineffective in half of Africa’s malaria cases.
There are no vaccines proven effective against malaria. And though prophylactic drugs are available, the best forms of prevention today are still the simplest. Mosquito netting around beds and mosquito repellant are two.
It’s estimated that it would take $3 billion a year to eradicate Malaria. Not a chunk of change anyone wants to part with, but still less than the amount spent each week on the war in Iraq.
On the other hand, in the past two years the President’s Malaria Initiative, a $1 billion+ initiative focusing on preventive treatment in children under 5 and pregnant mothers, has helped to reduce new cases of malaria across 15 African nations.
A recent shark attack in San Diego made national headlines yesterday. The attack was horrifying and tragic, no doubt.
But imagine if the same attention were paid to each of the million+ fatal animal attacks each year by the common mosquito…
Or if we could see the devastation of a 9/11-size catastrophe, 3000 people dead from malaria, every single day…
The resources devoted to solving such a crisis would be bottomless. But we don’t hear about it in the news precisely because it happens every day.
Malaria once terrorized Europe and America as it now does Africa. On April 25th we imagine a day when Malaria Day memorializes those millions killed from the eradicated disease, rather than the 3000 who will die today.