Malaria – Smallpox Threats
By James Donahue
Blame it on global warming;
there is a deadly new form of malaria spreading across Asia and the Middle East, and scientists worry that frozen corpses of smallpox victims, now thawing
in the tundra regions of the far north, may release that deadly virus once more.
For those too young to
remember, smallpox once rivaled malaria as the most deadly infectious disease ever to strike the human race. Now there is
a threat of the old smallpox virus waking up from a long and frozen sleep, and a new form of malaria that kills within hours.
Even more alarming is
that the new strain of malarial infection, caused by the parasite called plasmodium falciparum, has moved from Asia and Africa
and it currently sweeping northward through Iraq, where five years of war and bombing has prevented doctors and hospitals
to properly fight this disease.
This form of malaria
can kill within 24 hours. The patient suffers severe destruction of red blood cells leading to kidney and liver failure. Symptoms
are feeling chilled, then suffering a high fever, and sweating, with urine that is red or black in color. This is why it has
the name “blackwater” fever. Doctors say this form of malaria is so deadly because it is resistant to treatment
and brings on frequent and severe complications.
Journalists are failing
to report the presence of Blackwater Fever, mostly because of political pressure, which is adding to the danger. American
troops in Iraq cannot be vaccinated against
malaria, but they may be carrying medicine to treat it if they are exposed through bites from the mosquito that carries the
parasite. Thus Iraqi war veterans may be returning home as carriers of this deadly infection, which will crop up throughout
the rest of their lives.
Even more frightening
is that the malaria-carrying strain of mosquito, which has been a native of warmer climates, has been migrating northward
into the United States. This mosquito
was found as far north as Virginia in 2002. A bite from
this mosquito of a person carrying malaria can make the insect a carrier, thus threatening all who are bitten by it from that
time until the mosquito dies. The parasite lives in red blood cells.
The smallpox threat also
is rearing its ugly head, after nearly 30 years since scientists believed it was eradicated from the planet. Only samples
of the virus have remained stored in highly controlled conditions in various world laboratories, mostly to assure the capability
of developing a new round of vaccines in the event of an unexpected outbreak. The disease is that deadly.
Unfortunately, the virus
is hardy and survive for years in a frozen state. And several bodies of smallpox victims, buried in the frozen tundra across
northern Asia and possibly Canada, have
started to unthaw as the planet warms. There is a concern that anyone who accidentally comes in contact with a smallpox-infested
body will reintroduce the disease.
The variola virus that
causes smallpox causes fever, fatigue and pustules that leave deep scars on the skin. The disease is so deadly it left an
estimated 300 million people in the 20th Century before the World Health Organization conducted a global vaccination
campaign. The last known case occurred in Ethiopia
in the late 1970s.