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Published: February 2009High Performance: Malaria
Malaria

The End of Malaria

Can a multibillion-dollar push stop the world’s deadliest killer?

Text by Daniel Grushkin
Photo Illustration by Dan Saelinger

For Gretchen Garman, 29, a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, the symptoms came on suddenly and violently. "I was exhausted but otherwise fine, and then all at once I was nauseous, vomiting, and had a 103-degree temperature," she says. Two weeks earlier Garman had accidentally fallen asleep without a protective mosquito net and been bitten by the checker-winged species that carries malaria.

The majority of malaria victims worldwide are children under five, "but travelers who enter into endemic regions are just as susceptible as small children because they’re naive about the risks," says Joseph Vinetz, M.D., president-elect of the American Committee on Clinical Tropical Medicine and Travelers’ Health. Of the 1,564 diagnoses in the United States in 2006, for instance, all involved travelers who had contracted the disease abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Six cases were fatal.

Garman was lucky. Within a day she recognized malaria’s telltale symptoms and was able to get treatment quickly. But even after an intense course of medication, "it took weeks to get back up to speed," she says. "I’ve been through some malarious places since, and you can bet I take prophylaxes now."

Next: A Moving Target

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