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All you need to know about the World Mosquito Day – August 20

by DrPrem Jagyasi

On 20th August every year, the whole world observes the World Mosquito Day. In the year 1897, Sir Donald Ross, a British doctor discovered that malaria is transmitted by female mosquitoes. After this all-important discovery, Sir Donald declared that August 20th should be known as the World Mosquito Day to commemorate his finding. The discovery that the female Anopheles mosquito transmitted malaria was truly a tremendous breakthrough, as it enabled scientists to find a cure, which was not possible till then. With the entire world celebrating it, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has been organizing exhibitions and parties since the 1930s.

The historical perspective

 dreaded disease malaria

The dreaded disease malaria still kills numerous people all over the world. But the numbers would have been even higher if Sir Donald Ross had not made the discovery that female Anopheles mosquitoes were the transmitters of this deadly disease. Donald Ross, in 1895, noticed the presence of the malaria parasite in a mosquito’s gastro-intestinal tract. This was confirmed two years later in 1897, on the 20th of August. In 1902, he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his path-breaking discovery.

Malaria is widespread in the tropical regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. Many awareness activities and events are held on this day, especially in these countries to help prevent the spread of and promote better understanding of this disease. Africa is the worst affected by malaria, with 90% of all malaria related deaths occurring there. Pregnant women and toddlers are extremely vulnerable to malaria.

Sir Donald Ross’s discovery allowed researchers to come up with medicines and sprays, to combat this malady.

How do they celebrate it?

Various events to raise awareness about malaria are held, including fundraisers for research purposes. Parties are organized to provide information along with entertainment. Campaigns which inform people to take anti-malarial precautions when flying to malaria zones are organized. Some organizations have Twitter campaigns asking people to donate money for mosquito nets for poorer segments of society. Quinine is distributed as well, free of cost.

Focus is also upon other diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue, West Nile disease and encephalitis and chikungunya. Many NGOs spread awareness of the dangers of standing-water at home, which is a breeding ground for these mosquitoes.

Special Programs held around the world or in a region

Drain pipes

n regions where mosquito borne diseases like malaria are common, events like street plays and rallies are organized. In Cameroon, local officials clean sewage trenches to get the water flowing, so that mosquitoes can’t breed. Quizzes, speeches and songs are other ways to spread the message in an entertaining manner, and the prize for children who answer correctly is a mosquito net. Drummers and dancers perk up the festivities which help to gather people. On a global scale, governments and NGOs distribute information about malaria through pamphlets, stress is laid on adequate health care and mosquito nets are given out. In rural areas, educating the masses that malaria is preventable and not necessarily deadly is stressed.

How people prepare for it

Zika, dengue, chikungunya, Yellow fever are all spread by one mosquito species, the Aedes aegypti. These are extremely fatal viral diseases for which there is no cure till now, due to the fact that the virus strains keep evolving, making it harder to combat them. The WHO thus recommends controlling the population of mosquitoes. On World Mosquito Day, millions of sterile male mosquitoes are released in the wild as an eco-friendly solution to reducing mosquito population. This pesticide free method also helps protect insects like bees. On a lighter note, some celebrities like supermodel Kate Moss have even worn mosquito net like clothing at least once to promote mosquito awareness campaigns. On this day, the masses, scientists, NGOs all come together to find a solution to the mosquito menace.

Just one mosquito bite can prove to be deadly. August 20 is an important day to spread awareness about the methods of prevention as well as the advantages of early treatment to beat the fatal sting of a mosquito. The World Mosquito day is a salute to all scientists who have persevered for a better understanding of the dangers of diseases spread by mosquitoes.

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