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Mosquito nets drastically reduces malaria cases in Papua New Guinea

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Papua New Guinea is an island nation south of the equator that due to its humid temperatures, places its population at high risk for malaria, a deadly mosquito-borne virus. While New Guinea still remains the scene of 36 percent of all malaria cases worldwide, medical authorities there have very good success with insecticide treated nets, dramatically reducing the rate of malaria infections there.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pregnant women, young children and people living with HIV/AIDS especially vulnerable to malaria, according to the World Health Organization. There were 216 million reported cases of malaria worldwide and 655,000 fatalities in 2010, which represents a 25 percent drop in the mortality rate since 2000.

While falling short of the global target of 50 percent mortality rate reduction, the widespread use of insecticide treated bed nets, improved diagnosis and access to medicines have all made dramatic inroads in containing the disease.

One of the challenged medical officials in Papua New Guinea face is the fact that mosquitoes quickly adapt to greater human mobility and higher recorded temperatures.

"Malaria has always been highly endemic in all lowland areas of Papua New Guinea and higher areas up to about 1600 meters have been prone to epidemics whenever weather conditions made transmission possible, for example, a combination of slightly (increased) humidity and higher temperatures," Manuel Hetzel, head of the Population Health and Demography unit at the Papua New Guinean Institute of Medical Research says.

The Pacific Climate Change Science Program reports that maximum temperatures in Port Moresby have increased by 0.11 degrees Celsius per decade since 1950 and believes they could rise by 0.4-1.0 degrees Celsius by 2030. The government predicts climate change could result in 200,000 more people in highland regions being affected by malaria epidemics.

Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets, or LLINs, is a mosquito net treated in a factory with insecticide, which repels or kills the mosquitoes that come into contact with its surface. Each net has a life span of at least three years. These nets are most effective at night when the main malaria carrying mosquitoes are active. This protects transmission of the virus while people are asleep.

The World health Organization supports the use of LLINs. The organization claims that vector control "is the only intervention that can reduce malaria transmission from very high levels to close to zero." The WHO also suggests the most effective way to achieve widespread net protection "is through provision of free LLINs, so that everyone sleeps under an LLIN every night."

LLINs to 80 percent of the population in Papua New Guinea have been made available through the use of a grant. Tim Freeman, the organization's project manager, says that the emerging factor of climate change has not altered the distribution Program.

"We are responsible for ensuring LLINs are distributed to every household in the country, regardless of whether they are considered high or low risk," he said.

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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