It was reported on February 4th that Bill Gates released mosquitoes in the conference room of a “well heeled crowd” of attendees at a technical conference in Calfiornia; proclaiming that “Malaria is spread by mosquitoes; I brought some. Here, I’ll let them roam around – there is no reason only poor people should be infected.’
Needless to say the crowd wasn’t happy, even after he assured them that these mosquitoes weren’t carrying malaria parasites, but I thought the whole irony of this stunt was rich in symbolism. The “rich” and I include everyone living in the first world, including you and me because we benefit from the realities of first world economics generally don’t worry about mosquito borne diseases because we can afford to spray for them and we do. First it was DDT, and now we have a host of products that are used (none of which the greenies support by the way, so whether it is DDT or anything else it just doesn’t matter to these misanthropes). Yet so many in the first world stand against the use of products, including DDT, that will save millions of lives. However, what if it was different?
Secondly we have expensive medications. David Gardner makes this point, “Although pills exist that can help prevent malaria, there is currently no vaccine. Preventative medication is used mainly by travelers and is not available to the vast majority of people living in the Third World.” Although he goes on to note that, “Resistance to antibiotics by the malaria parasite is also becoming a problem, with some preventative medications no longer effective in certain parts of the world.” However, what if it was different?
So why did Bill Gates “perform” this stunt. To advertise the disaster that malaria is to the rest of the world…to shock the “rich” out of their sense of complacency and help them to understand what it is like when it really is different and it is very different in the third world.
Gates quit Microsoft to work on his charitable programs. One of them is malaria, and he wanted to “hammer home the importance of malaria prevention.” He and his wife donated almost 170 million dollars last year to a program that is working to develop a vaccine for this nightmare disease.
In Africa there isn’t a family that hasn’t suffered from the tragedy of malaria and its overall effects; death, retardation, reoccurring afflictions, not to mention the economic impact of having so many sick people in a society all the time. No society can overcome poverty when so much money is devoted to caring for the sick. No economy can overcome poverty when so many are unable to work. No economy can overcome poverty when so many healthy people have to devote so much time to care for their loved ones. No economy can overcome poverty when the healthy will themselves be struck down by this disease and they all know it is just a matter of time before it is their turn. According to Gardner, “Up to 2.7 million people a year still die of malaria each year, 75 per cent of them African children”.
Gates has been criticized for not recognizing that DDT is still the number one product in malaria prevention, however I am not going to beat on him over this. He at least recognizes that the problem exists and how severe it is. He at least is putting his money where his mouth is. He at least is advertising how serious a problem this is and I have tremendous respect for him over this. Still…this is a case of not seeing the whole problem. Malaria isn’t the only disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Let’s review! I have logged onto two web sites; one from the CDC and one from the state of Minnesota. Why Minnesota? Because it is so far north…it isn’t a subtropical or tropical area. Let us review Minnesota's problems first.
West Nile Virus (WNV)
West Nile virus is a disease transmitted to people, horses, and birds. It is the most commonly reported mosquito-transmitted disease in Minnesota. Most people infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms or flu-like symptoms, but some (primarily elderly) have more severe illness.
LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC)
LaCrosse encephalitis, which is transmitted by the Tree Hole mosquito, is responsible for 3 to 13 cases of severe illness (primarily in children) each year in Minnesota.
Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE)
During 1941, there was a large regional outbreak of Western equine encephalitis. There may have been as many as 791 cases in Minnesota that year with 90 deaths. In more recent years, Minnesota has had infrequent and smaller outbreaks of WEE (15 human cases in 1975, single cases in 1983 and 1999).
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. EEE is quite severe and typically fatal among infected horses.
St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE)
CDC; Cases of St. Louis encephalitis are usually the result of unpredictable and intermittent localized epidemics. Attention: Non-MDH link
Along with those listed above the CDC listed a few more.
Causes aseptic meningitis or encephalitis. Many cases have only fever with headache, but can progress to focal paralysis, intractable seizures, coma and death. Varies with occurrence and intensity of epidemic transmission; usually 150-3,000 cases/year.
Mild infections occur without apparent symptoms other than fever with headache. More severe infection is marked by quick onset, headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions (especially in infants) and spastic (but rarely flaccid) paralysis.
Also known a break bone fever because of the pain the symptoms of dengue include, fever, severe headache, pain behind the eye , joint and muscle pain, rash. Usually dengue fever causes a mild illness, but it can be severe and even cause dengue hemorrhagic (bleeding) fever (DHF), which can be fatal if not treated. People who have had dengue fever before are more at risk of getting DHF.
No vaccine is available to prevent dengue, and there is no specific medicine to cure dengue. Those who become ill with dengue fever can be given medicine to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen, and may need oral rehydration or intravenous fluids and, in severe cases, treatment to support their blood pressure.
Rift Valley Fever
RVF virus can cause several different disease syndromes. People with RVF typically have either no symptoms or a mild illness associated with fever and liver abnormalities. However, in some patients the illness can progress to hemorrhagic fever (which can lead to shock or hemorrhage), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain, which can lead to headaches, coma, or seizures), or ocular disease (diseases affecting the eye). Patients who become ill usually experience fever, generalized weakness, back pain, dizziness, and extreme weight loss at the onset of the illness. Typically, patients recover within two days to one week after onset of illness. The most common complication associated with RVF is inflammation of the retina (a structure connecting the nerves of the eye to the brain). As a result, approximately 1% - 10% of affected patients may have some permanent vision loss. Approximately 1% of humans that become infected with RVF die of the disease. Case-fatality proportions are significantly higher for infected animals. The most severe impact is observed in pregnant livestock infected with RVF, which results in abortion of virtually 100% of fetuses.
It is easy to see that the picture is much larger than malaria. The best prevention against malaria and all the other afflictions that mosquitoes can transmit is to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito. Although that isn’t entirely possible, it can be seriously reduced by the appropriate application of pesticides. Pesticides that work and are affordable in the third world! I applaud Bill Gates: I just hope that he can begin to really see the whole picture and begin to realize that those who oppose pesticides can never be appeased because they are irrational and misanthropic.
The Boyd Principle states that at some point in our lives we come to a fork in the road and must make a decision. If you take one path you will be popular and you will be rewarded. If you take the other path you will be criticized, ridiculed and scorned. However, you won’t have to turn your back on your friends or your principles. If you are more concerned with accomplishing that which is right and best the satisfaction for having stood against the conventional wisdom on right principles will be your reward, and you may actually accomplish something worthwhile.