Magazine article Science News

Keep Out: Treated Mosquito Nets Limit Child Deaths

Magazine article Science News

Keep Out: Treated Mosquito Nets Limit Child Deaths

Article excerpt

By sleeping under chemically treated mosquito nets, children cut their risk of death almost in half, researchers in Kenya report. Their study, which included thousands of young children, bolsters the case that increased use of insecticide-coated netting can prevent malaria.

Treated nets repel mosquitoes that transmit malaria and fend off flies that carry other diseases. Carefully controlled studies had already shown that the nets could prevent disease in malarial areas of sub-Saharan Africa, but experts were unsure whether real-world use of treated nets would actually lower death rates.

Epidemiologist Greg W. Fegan and his colleagues at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute in Nairobi monitored 3,484 children in 72 towns and villages to examine the impact of recent net-distribution campaigns in parts of Kenya. In 2004, just 7 percent of children under age 5 in these malarial zones were sleeping under nets. By 2006, subsidized sales and giveaway programs had upped that rate to 67 percent.

The researchers monitored use of the nets for an average of 21 months per child, visiting the homes periodically. They recorded 100 deaths from any cause among children between 1 month and 5 years of age. They excluded infants less than a month old from the analysis, because such neonates often die of causes other than malaria. Of the 100 deaths, 81 occurred among children who slept without the protection of treated nets, the scientists report in the Sept. 22 Lancet.

After statistical adjustment, the authors estimated that children sleeping under nets were at 44 percent lower risk of death than unprotected children were. …

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