|Fall 2010||Volume 26, Number 1||Findings Magazine|
Kenya: Mosquito Nets for Rural Areas
When it comes to preventing the spread of malaria in urban areas, factors such as house construction and the use of anti-mosquito coils are important—but perhaps not as important as where someone spends the night, says Mark Wilson, UM professor of epidemiology and ecology and evolutionary biology. Wilson and former Ph.D. student Jose Siri studied malaria risk in Kisumu, Kenya, and found that the greatest risk factor for a child living in an urban area was whether the child spent at least one night a month in a rural area. Those children were nine times more likely to contract malaria—a fact that "probably relates to the lack of the use of bed nets in those rural areas," Wilson says. Malaria is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes that bite at night, he notes.
In a study published in July in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Wilson, Siri, and colleagues suggest that travelers should carry bed nets with them if they travel from the city to rural areas. The study also shows that special information and prevention efforts are necessary for the growing group of urban residents who travel to rural areas.
While foreign tourists are at relatively lower risk when staying in cities because hotels provide screens and mosquito nets, and tourists are very likely taking antimalarial drugs, Wilson says if they embark upon a more exotic or adventurous vacation, they should be sure to bring along a treated mosquito net.
In collaboration with Don Mathanga, another former Ph.D. student, Wilson is now studying urban malaria epidemiology in Blantyre, Malawi. Their investigations, conducted with colleagues at Michigan State University and other major research institutions, are part of a recently awarded seven-year NIH grant establishing an International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research in Malawi.
By Laura Bailey