Can the Mosquito Speak? Hell yeah it does, it says” bzzzzzzzz” and that’s enough for me.
I’m planning my year abroad and there was a pretty heated discussion about a sister’s death (possibly due to Malaria) in Somalia on Umar Lee’s, Murder of a Sister . While I do not think she was murdered, I critiqued the folly of Muslims who travel to places in high disease environments without proper shots and medications. I know there are Muslims who are against immunizations. Some are raising their unimmunized kids in America, others are taking them to places that I’d get Tetanus, TB, Rabies, Cholera, Yellow Fever, Dysentry, Hepatitus A,B, (isn’t there a B and a D? I dunno), Chicken Pox, Measles, any I’d just make sure my shot record was on point. I’d also carry a good back of antibiotics and disinfectant. I got a rough microbial parasite while in Morocco, I was sick as a dog and lost maybe 10 pounds in like 2 days throwing up and having explosive—[let me just stop right here]. I love the pharmacy, without those meds, I don’t know how I would have recovered. But there was a religious scholar in Northern Nigeria who advised his followers not to immunize their kids. There was a polio epidemic, and if anybody remembers steel lungs and the depressing black and white movies of polio, you’d wonder why would people follow some nonsense. I’m all for natural medicine. But dang, germs and viruses kill more people than guns and bombs.
I am going to Egypt for a year, and being the hypochondriac that I am, (if you haven’t figure that out already), I felt the need to do some research and visit a travel medicine clinic. I remember reading Timothy Mitchell’s book “Rule of Experts,” which is an excellent book about technocrats in Egypt. He had an amazing chapter about the dam projects which caused epidimics of malaria in Egypt. For Mitchtell, the mosquito became a historical agent. He made the funniest play on words and Subaltern theory, with a chapter titled “Can the mosquito speak?” The mosquito cannot write its own history, but a water irrigation scheme set off a set of reactions that increased the mosquito population. Thousands died and the whole country had to be mobilized to eradicate the problem.
Although I am all into recovering the voices of the subaltern. I am all for the underdog and decentered histories, but I dislike mosquitoes. I get massive swelling whenever a mosquito bites me. It gets really hot and itchy, sometimes really painful. Mosquitoes are gross, I don’t want to hear them speak. In fact, I want them eradicated because I don’t see how they do anybody good, except for the bugs and birds that eat them. And the mosquitoes carry malaria, which is my worst nightmare. There are many forms of malaria, but in some zones, there is Falciparum malaria, the most dangerous form of the disease. Falciparum malaria is common in tropical and sub-tropical Africa.
There isn’t a high risk of getting malaria in Egypt, but I’m still going to get some anti-malarial medication in case I decide last minute to hop over to Yemen. Whatever way it goes, I’m so cool off of mosquitoes.
Natural Protection Against Malaria:
A number of African Americans have some protection against Falciparum malaria. My friend, who is of West African and African American extraction, experienced this directly. She has the sickle trait and never got malaria while in Yemen , but her husband did (he doesn’t have the trait). 1 in 12 African Americans are carriers of the sickle cell trait. If you inherited the trait from both your parents, you may be suffer sickle cell anemia. It can be pretty devastating. And not enough funding goes to treatment and research, because it is a “Black” disease. Sickle cell traits were a natural defense that developed in regions where there are malarial belts. People with sickle cell are more likely to survive once infected. When the slavers traded our ancestors off and the Europeans packed them into boats, many Africans died. Some 15-25 million Africans were transported and many didn’t make it. The majority of Africans went to the Carribean and South America. There, they died within years time under brutal plantation systems. A lot different from how you guys imagine your Carribean holidies. There was also malaria in the South. The death rates were so bad, that they the populations did not reproduce itself. Instead, Europeans imported more Africans to die. But eventually the conditions in the Americas allowed for Africans to develop self-sustaining communities. So, out of that survival story, our ancestors gave us antibodies to survive the disease environment in the Americas. They also passed to many of us a trait that could help us survive a devastating disease–malaria.
Just because you have the trait doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautionary measures. You should sleep with a mosquito net to prevent the mosquitoes from biting you while you’re sleep, spray on stinky DEET to prevent mosquito bite (they can’t find you cause you smell so bad), and take those anti-malarial medications to block the life-cycle of the parasite that causes malaria. But Anti-malarial medications are pretty wild. They can cause hallucinations, I mean scary hallucinations. A brother I know took them while studying abroad, I believe in Kenya or maybe Tanzania. He said that he had the most vivid dream where his mother was on fire, burning right in front of him…shudder…My friend went to Ghana and passed up on the antimalarial medications out of fear of the medication’s side effects. Alhumdulillah she did not encounter many mosquitoes and didn’t contract anything. But even though there are cases of people walking away unharmed. I know others who have suffered from malaria. For anybody travelling, be sure to take precautions, especially if you have children. I don’t care if you going Tablighing in India, for sacred in Yemen, or to Somalia or Northern Nigeria for hijrah. Check out the Center for Disease Control Website.
Why is Malaria Still a killer:
Malaria kills a child somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. It infects at least 500 million people each year, killing 1 million. Ninety per cent of those who die are in Africa, where malaria accounts for about one in five of all childhood deaths.
I have also read debates where Africans advocated the use of DDT in order to eradicate mosquitoes, but DDT is banned internationally by Western environmentalists. African American and African environmentalists have been pushing for the end to the ban on DDT because it would save the lives of African children. See website here. Other organizations take UNICEF has Malaria advocacy program. Malaria kills more than AIDs, but it doesn’t get the same publicity. Perhaps you can do something to help alleviate the suffering that is caused by this forgotten disease.
The malaria parasite life cycle involves two hosts. During a blood meal, a malaria-infected female Anopheles mosquito inoculates sporozoites into the human host . Sporozoites infect liver cells and mature into schizonts , which rupture and release merozoites . (Of note, in P. vivax and P. ovale a dormant stage [hypnozoites] can persist in the liver and cause relapses by invading the bloodstream weeks, or even years later.) After this initial replication in the liver (exo-erythrocytic schizogony ), the parasites undergo asexual multiplication in the erythrocytes (erythrocytic schizogony ). Merozoites infect red blood cells . The ring stage trophozoites mature into schizonts, which rupture releasing merozoites . Some parasites differentiate into sexual erythrocytic stages (gametocytes). Blood stage parasites are responsible for the clinical manifestations of the disease.
The gametocytes, male (microgametocytes) and female (macrogametocytes), are ingested by an Anopheles mosquito during a blood meal . The parasites’ multiplication in the mosquito is known as the sporogonic cycle . While in the mosquito’s stomach, the microgametes penetrate the macrogametes generating zygotes . The zygotes in turn become motile and elongated (ookinetes) which invade the midgut wall of the mosquito where they develop into oocysts . The oocysts grow, rupture, and release sporozoites , which make their way to the mosquito’s salivary glands. Inoculation of the sporozoites into a new human host perpetuates the malaria life cycle.*
*This information came from the CDC website.
So, for all you Muslim travellers. Here’s a bit of a rundown on malaria in places we might visit. Just remember, have trust in Allah and tie your camel too.
Risk of Malaria in Middle East
Malaria Risk by Country
Risk present, chloroquine resistance present Take Chloroquine plus proguanil or Doxycycline
Afghanistan (below 2000m, May-November)
Oman (remote rural areas only)
Saudi Arabia (except northern, eastern and central provinces, Asir plateau, and western border cities, where there is very little risk; no risk in Mecca)
Yemen (no risk in Sana’a)
Risk low take Chloroquine or Proguanil
Azerbaijan (southern border areas, June-September)
Egypt (El Faiyum only, June-October)
Iraq (rural north and Basrah Province, May-November)
Kyrgystan (south-west, May-October)
Syria (north border, May-October)
Turkey (plain around Adana, Side, south east Anatolia; May-October)
Turkmenistan (south-east only, June-October)
Risk very low Avoid mosquito bites
Egypt (tourist areas malaria free)
Georgia (south-east, July-October)
Kyrgystan (but low risk in south-west)
Morocco (rural areas)
Turkey (most tourist areas)
Uzbekistan (extreme south-east only)