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HomeNewsMalaria, not Ebola, biggest threat to U.S. Troops in Liberia

Malaria, not Ebola, biggest threat to U.S. Troops in Liberia

Written by Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods
27th Public Affairs Detachment

United States Africa CommandMonrovia, Liberia – During the American Revolution, George Washington used part of the Continental Army’s scarce budget to purchase quinine for the treatment of malaria in his troops.

According to Professor Dale Smith, a military medical historian at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the U.S. military counted more than a half-million cases of malaria during World War II.

“This will be a long war, if for every division I have facing the enemy, I must count on a second division in the hospital with malaria, and a third division convalescing from this debilitating disease,” said Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

The antimalarial medication Malarone was issued to service members deployed to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. In addition to antimalarial medication, troops deployed in support of OUA received special equipment and clothing to prevent mosquito bites and infection. Portions of this image were masked for privacy reasons. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)
The antimalarial medication Malarone was issued to service members deployed to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. In addition to antimalarial medication, troops deployed in support of OUA received special equipment and clothing to prevent mosquito bites and infection. Portions of this image were masked for privacy reasons. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

The U.S. armed forces have had a bitter, long-standing battle with malaria. Despite continuous research and advances in antimalarial medicine, this parasitic disease, spread by infected Anopheles mosquitoes, continues to threaten the health of the U.S. military.

In 2003, about 300 Marines deployed to Liberia for a military peacekeeping operation however the mission failed due to 80 cases of malaria within the first three weeks.

In October 2014, service members returned to Liberia for Operation United Assistance, an operation supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa. The fight against Ebola, however, poses a significantly smaller threat than malaria.

Pfc. Stephanie Scales, a mechanic assigned to the 194th Military Police Company, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, rests inside of her tent after work at Barclay Training Center, Monrovia, Liberia, Dec. 2, 2014. The tents and mosquito nets are part of the equipment issued to U.S. troops in order to protect them against malaria. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)
Pfc. Stephanie Scales, a mechanic assigned to the 194th Military Police Company, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, rests inside of her tent after work at Barclay Training Center, Monrovia, Liberia, Dec. 2, 2014. The tents and mosquito nets are part of the equipment issued to U.S. troops in order to protect them against malaria. (Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

“Right now, based on current statistics, someone who is unprotected from malaria has a 50 percent chance per month of getting malaria in Liberia,” said Capt. Neel Shah, physician and Barclay Training Center aid station officer in charge, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance.  “Mathematically, statistically, in every way you look at it, malaria is the biggest killer.”

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