Yellow fever was attributed to poor hygiene and sanitation. It wasn't until two years after the epidemic that a Cuban physician indicted mosquitos in the disease's cause and spread and it took another 22 years before Walter Reed would finally prove that mosquitos were the source of the disease.
As a child, I used to give people tours of the Yellow Fever House in Holly Springs. I remember thinking how long ago 1878 seemed, how distant those deaths, how such things couldn't happen today. I remember that I couldn't imagine living in that place where mosquitos had been able to spread disease without restraint.
Now, I can. I have been in places ravaged by malaria. I have seen children and adults tired, red-eyed, feverish, and sick because of a mosquito bite. I have spoken with parents whose children have died and children whose parents have died all because of mosquitos. Unlike the Lower Mississippi River Valley in the 1800's, however, we know that mosquitos carry malaria. We know that a simple treated bed net will save a life. We have medicines that can treat infected people and prevent infection in others. When I have traveled to regions with malaria, I have been privileged enough to be able to take a net along with me and take prophylactic medication. Yet, there is no reason that I should have such easy access to these if people living in the areas affected do not.
Today is World Malaria Day. I do not live in Congo, but I did live in Holly Springs. I grew up knowing that ignorance allowed mosquitos to spread disease and kill thousands upon thousands of people. Today we are not ignorant of the causes or treatments of malaria. And yet, every 45 seconds a child dies of malaria somewhere in Africa. There is no excuse not to eradicate malaria in our life time. I implore you to take the $20 that you would spend at lunch and send a net, save a life. Stop malaria today.