Thursday, December 18, 2003

Burundi: how a community got Malaria

Fascinating story ...

The environment in Karuzi province, in the highlands of Burundi, was such that the people never suffered from Malaria ... which meant that ...
... the population built up no immunity and were as vulnerable as the 19th century European explorers it felled.

Two events ended Karuzi's luck. Some farmers cleared papyrus from the lower wetlands to cultivate rice, not realising that by releasing an oil on the water's surface, the papyrus had acted as a barrier against certain mosquitoes. Then a civil war in 1994 brought an influx of lowlanders with malaria to Karuzi.

The mosquitoes feasted on the newcomers' blood, thus becoming malaria carriers. Each subsequent rainy season left a slowly growing number of locals stricken with the classic symptoms of fever and nausea.

Then, in the course of several terrible weeks in October and November 2000, the trickle turned into a torrent. About half a million cases of malaria were recorded in a population of 350,000 as almost every man, woman and child was infected, many more than once. (link)