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Malaria
Nature Bulletin No, 275-A    September 23, 1967
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Richard B. Ogilvie, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

MALARIA
Here in the Middle West, until World War II when about a million service men were treated for it in other parts of the world, we had almost forgotten about malaria, or ague. In early days, people in many localities considered themselves fortunate if everyone in the family did not suffer "chills and fever" at the same time. Then, for weeks or months during late summer and autumn of each year, these attacks repeated every second day or, in some cases, every third day, They were so regular that many a pioneer knew the exact hour to finish the morning's work and sit down to await the first chill or "lague fit".

The typical attack, lasting 6 to 12 hours, begins with yawning and stretching. Chilliness increases until the whole body shivers, the teeth chatter, the fingers become dead-white and the nails blue. This is followed by a dry fever, with the skin burning hot and flushed after which the victim is drenched with sweat and is finally left weak and exhausted. Next day the patient feels fairly well but his health is gradually undermined by repeated attacks.

Malaria has a higher world-wide sickness rate and death rate than any other human disease. It is especially prevalent in the tropics and other warm parts of the world where it is also called intermittent fever, jungle fever, blackwater fever, marsh fever and hill fever. The malaria germ is a microscopic one-celled animal parasite which attacks the red blood cells of man and destroys them, causing the victim to become weak and sallow. There are three main types, differing in the length of time required for their development in the blood cells, the number of days between attacks, the time of day when the attacks begin, and their severity. The commonest form in the Middle West is called "tertian" and causes attacks which start about noon on alternate days. "Quartan" malaria produces attacks every 72 hours, starting about sundown.

Malaria is spread from person to person entirely by mosquitoes and, furthermore, only by the bites of the females of certain common kinds of mosquitoes, known as Anopheles. The germ, which the mosquito acquires when she bites an infected person, must spend from one to two weeks in her body to complete an essential part of its life cycle. After that, when she bites another person, these parasites are injected into the blood stream where each enters a red cell, multiplies until the cell is destroyed, and the numerous young are set free to attack other blood cells. These swarms of young break out in waves at regular intervals, producing the periodic chills and fevers characteristic of malaria. This is the only time when drugs have any effect.

The bark of the cinchona tree, also called Peruvian bark or Jesuit's bark, was brought to Europe from Peru in the 1600's and used to combat fevers, but it was not until 1820 that two Frenchmen made pure quinine from it. Soon, factories in Philadelphia and Cincinnati began making it and Dr. Henry Perrine of Ripley, Illinois, published the first American article advocating its use during the feverish stages of malaria. Medical men violently opposed it, but, in 1832, Dr. John Sappington of Arrow Rock, Missouri, began to advertise and sell his "Anti-Fever Pills" of quinine and gradually it became the accepted remedy. Until that time, malaria epidemics halted normal life in whole communities. Now, we have synthetic quinine, atabrine and other substitutes, Now, only a few cases are reported from Illinois each year and none from the Chicago region.

When you shiver and shake, then sweat and ache -- that's "ager".


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