Source: BBC News
By: Fergus Walsh
We all like reports of dramatic medical and scientific breakthroughs but the reality is that most developments are incremental. As a result, important issues can get overlooked.
Take malaria. Deaths from the parasitic infection – which is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes – have been falling steadily since around 2004. Only a few years ago it was said that the disease killed one child every 30 seconds. I remember using this figure on a trip to Ghana in 2006. By 2009 the estimate was down to one child dying every 45 seconds.
“It is now more likely that malaria kills a child every sixty seconds,” according to Dr Richard Cibulskis, the lead author of the World Malaria Report.
He explained some statistical factors are at work here – in part the fall is due to a downward revision in overall global childhood mortality.
Updates in surveillance numbers in recent years has also led to a fall in the global estimate of cases. Assessing the burden of malaria is not straightforward. Many Africa countries do not have strong disease surveillance systems so cause of death data is not always well recorded. This means that surveys and what are called ‘verbal autopsies’ – descriptions of symptoms given by parents – are sometimes used.