Nature Bulletin No, 275-A September 23, 1967
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Richard B. Ogilvie, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
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
When you shiver and shake, then sweat and ache -- that's "ager".
To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Update: June 2012