Which disease gets its name from an Italian phrase that translates to "bad air?"

And the answer: malaria.

Photo credit: Alvesgaspar, via Wikimedia Commons

Transmitted through mosquito bites, malaria is one of the most ubiquitous diseases known, with more than 125 different species of malaria that infect mammals, birds and reptiles. It gets its name from the Italian words mala and aria, which translate to "bad air."

Malaria is an ancient disease. Though it was first reported around the time of the ancient Egyptians in 1550 B.C., malaria likely existed throughout all of human’s evolutionary history. In both Egyptian records as well as in ancient Greek reports, symptoms of fevers are linked to swamp air – the breeding ground for this vicious disease.

Malaria is most easily transmitted between individuals in locations where mosquito lifespan is longer, and where mosquitoes have greater ability to prey on humans rather than animals. A longer lifespan provides the parasite more time to complete its development inside the mosquito, increasing the likelihood of transmission. The long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the main reason why approximately 90% of the world's malaria cases are in Africa.

While it is widespread and has had devastating effects on African, South-East Asian, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific communities, there are forms of prevention and cure. Antimalarial drugs can prevent the blood stage of malarial infections, therefore preventing the disease altogether. There are also forms of vector control that have been effective in preventing the infection and spread of malaria, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying.

To learn more about malaria check out the video below.

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