I first heard of malaria when I was 10 or 11 years when we moved to another town. I can’t even remember ever seeing a mosquito or even hearing of an insect called ‘mosquito’ before then. Well, I was rudely awakened to the existence of malaria one day when a classmate didn’t come to school because she had ‘malaria’. I asked other classmates what malaria was and they looked at me as if I was crazy. I persisted and one impatiently told me that it was a disease caused by mosquitoes. Well, my next question was to ask what mosquitoes are. She explained and said that one gets an itchy ‘pimple’ when bitten by a mosquito.
As luck would have it, a friend (Brenda, I still remember her name) had an itchy pimple that she kept scratching. Of course I was curious as to what it was and she said it was a mosquito bite. I asked if that was the malaria I had heard so much of. She said no and was not impressed as she thought I wished her to have malaria. Oh, how I wish I had gone on with my ignorance without ever being exposed to the devastating effects of malaria!
Fast forward a couple of years and I came face to face with malaria after we moved to a new area near a stream. Everybody in that compound suffered from malaria frequently, including me. The malaria would do rounds in homes, especially during the rain season. Those days the medication was chloroquine which gave one nightmares and itchy feet and hands. The effects were as horrible if not more than the malaria headaches, fevers and throwing up. The regular malaria was at least manageable, not the cerebral malaria that caused patients to act in a crazy way.
One of my parents was usually down with malaria whenever I called them from the US after I relocated. I even started dreading calling home because of the malaria news.
My parents moved to a small holding a few years ago near a stream and were happy with the new place and their life there. They also always had a good report for me whenever I called. After one year I realized that they never mentioned having malaria. When I asked them, they said they had not had malaria since moving even though there were a lot of mosquitoes in the first year. I told a friend about this and he said it was because my parents’ new house was far from other houses. Apparently, mosquitoes do not fly very far and so cannot spread malaria from one home to another. They still live near a stream and during the rain season there is all sorts of vegetation growing in their fields just outside their home.
I was relieved about the outcome of their move and I hope it stays that way, fingers crossed while knocking on wood.