Many victims of malaria are pregnant women and their unborn babies, as well as children under age 5. The epidemic is stretching to the breaking point the meager resources of the health care system where up to four people share beds in some public hospitals.
Malaria was wiped out in the United States almost six decades ago, after an outbreak led to the formation of the Office of Malaria Control (now part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There are 1,200 malaria cases recorded each year in the U.S., none of them fatal.
A malarial attack is a frightful and debilitating experience. A female anopheles mosquito, the pathogen, bites usually in early evening, releasing plasmodia parasites that cause malaria. The disease is characterized by a throbbing headache, chills, fever and an enlarged spleen. Full recovery usually takes up to four weeks, and the patient is unable to work or do much of anything.
"The poor can least afford to be sick," Nunes said.
"If they are sick, they cannot work and you can't get money and if you have no money, you can't buy food."
Andrew Kipkemboi, features editor of The Standard in Nairobi, Kenya, is an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow at The Sun.