Washington, D.C. — More than 50 years after health workers eradicated malaria in the United States, the Bush administration is launching an ambitious new attack on a disease that still claims more than 1 million victims annually worldwide.
The goal of today's White House Summit on Malaria is to rally the nation for a mammoth public-health campaign that would rival the effort that defeated polio in the 1960s. If all goes as planned, schoolchildren across America will join corporations, religious organizations, charities and the federal government in a mission to cut Africa's death rate from malaria in half within five years.
Africa accounts for about 90 percent of malaria-related deaths worldwide, and 75 percent of the victims are children.
The parasitic disease is spread by mosquitoes and typically causes high fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Death can result from severe anemia, kidney failure or malaria-related brain disease.
Many scientists believe that rising temperatures tied to climate change are enabling malaria's spread into African highlands that long were largely free of the ancient plague.