Disease as History and Ecology: Malaria

By McCann, James C. | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, May 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Disease as History and Ecology: Malaria


McCann, James C., The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Disease as History and Ecology: Malaria

The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria. By Randall M. Packard. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. Pp. 296. $24.95.

One could well describe Randall Packard's book The Making of a Tropical Disease as a magnum opus, a capstone effort that follows his earlier book on tuberculosis in South Africa (White Plague, Black Labor, 1989), his later perspectives on HIV/AIDS, and his current status as director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for the History of Medicine. This book is path breaking in a number of ways, most especially as a comprehensive view of malaria, the world's most deadly infectious disease, and one whose origins and greatest impacts have been in Africa. His study's historical scale is global in geographic terms, but also in its engagement with the methods and data of biomédical fields like epidemiology, immunology, and entomology. Packard frames his study within a rubric of the history of medicine, though its goal and its methods might, in fact, fit even more comfortably in the field of environmental or ecological history, a genre label he chose not to invoke explicitly in the text. Might an acknowledgement of environmental history better place his topic with a broader audience than history of medicine? Or would that suggest a distinction without a difference?

Packard's introduction, eight chapters, and conclusion emphasize both historical depth and the geographic range of malaria. His introduction, "Constructing the Global Narrative," offers a few counterintuitive malaria case narratives of the disease from such places as Archangel (Russia), Palm Beach (Florida), and West Bengal (India) to illustrate the geographic range of the disease and the sometimes incongruence of its appearance in surprising social, climatic, or geographic circumstances. Those cases are anomalies he has chosen for effect. Here also is where he lays out an overall thesis (pp. 12-13), i.e., that malaria transmission over time and in particular places has been a direct consequence of human ecology as a dynamic force that stimulated seasonal endemic transmission in some areas and in other places the unexpected "perfect storm" [my term] of ecology, politics, and human settlement that flare up as shocking and deadly epidemics. Studying disease in these settings would seem to invite environment as a contrastive canvas, though Packard does not adopt that approach explicitly.

In Chapter 1, "Beginnings," Packard lays the foundation of the science of malaria in ways that are clear, but also allows readers to appreciate the complexities of malaria as an interaction of vector, parasite, and human sufferers, as well as its dynamism over time. These biological and ecological factors include the origins of malaria in what ecologists might call "edge effects" in changing human ecosystems. He demonstrates this phenomenon by describing the disease's context in Central Africa's Congolia rain forest, the evolution of the life cycle of the protozoan genus Plasmodium as the disease organism, and the emergence of several distinctive species of that organism (e.g., P. falciparum and P. vivax). He then recounts the even more fascinating story of the co-evolution of the specific vectors-mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles-that carry the disease from host to new victims, especially the A. gambiae, a type that prefers human blood (as opposed to livestock or birds) and is the most efficient carrier of the disease-causing agent. Packard's accounts of the science here are complex, accurate, and necessary because the bioscience sets both the actors and the stage. Perhaps most importantly, Packard (p. 25) identifies the disease's key factor for transmission-vectorial density. He makes it clear to the reader that the density and age of the mosquito population is the most critical factor in explaining where, when, and why malaria transmissions occur. Malaria outbreaks are thus a conjuncture of events, not an accident of capricious nature or the evil intent of female mosquitoes.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Disease as History and Ecology: Malaria
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.