Actor and activist George Clooney has just recovered from a bout of malaria. He got the disease from a recent trip to Sudan where the historic referendum was about to get underway. Clooney has long been involved with Sudan as an activist. In reaction to the atrocities that took place in Darfur, Clooney set up the non-profit - Not on Our Watch, which he co-founded with Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub. Given his serious credentials, what would have led George to make a flippant remark like "malaria was just good fun", given that every 45 seconds an African child dies from the disease?
Well, of course George Clooney was joking about his bout of malaria being "fun", but he was also trying to make a salient point. If you have the right medication along with fresh water and a little food, malaria is similar to a bout of flu. I've had malaria several times, and personally the flu felt worse and lasted a lot longer. Malaria is not pleasant and you feel awful, but unless you're unlucky and get an unusual strain of the disease, you'll recover in a week to ten days. Malaria does not have to kill. Basic measures like mosquito nets and adequate medication would be enough to save millions of lives.
I know of several people who are afraid to visit Africa because they fear malaria. If you are visiting for a few weeks and you take basic precautions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, there is a very slim chance you'll get it. A mosquito has to first bite an infected person and then bite you soon afterward. Flu is spread around much more effectively and I've rarely heard of people worried about visiting Europe or the US during the winter months for fear of catching flu.
Image of George Clooney attending voting ceremonies during the first day of voting for the independence referendum in the southern Sudanese city of Juba January 9, 2011 in Juba, Sudan -- ęGetty Images/Spencer Platt