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SciTech Tuesday: Malaria and Dr. Seuss

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This is Ann

Newsmap illustrated by Theodor Seuss Geisel, published November 8, 1943. Courtesy of the US Navy Department Library.

Tropical diseases proved to be a formidable foe in the Pacific Theatre, with malaria, dysentery and yellow fever at the top of the list. Protecting troops from infection often involved controlling the vector, or carrier, or the disease. In the case of malaria, the potentially fatal illness is transmitted by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Characterized by high fever and severe headaches, malaria is caused by parasitic microorganisms of the genus Plasmodium which uses the mosquito to spread among hosts. In the Pacific malaria was responsible for more Allied casualties than combat and by February 1943, the Army Air Corps projected that 4 out of 10 troops would be hospitalized for malaria within the year.

The antimalarial drug quinine, derived from the bark of the cinchona tree, has been a proven treatment for centuries. But as war swept across Europe and Asia, quinine became inaccessible to the United States as cinchona plantations in Indonesia fell to Japan and drug reserves in Amsterdam were captured by Germany. Without a stockpile of quinine, the Allies turned to alternative treatments. The synthetic antimalarial drug known as Atabrine was promising, but many troops refused to take the drug because of its horrendous side effects. The United States even operated its own cinchona plantations in Costa Rica but failed to produce the quantity of quinine necessary for the war effort.

As alternatives to quinine proved ineffective, the education of troops about mosquito-borne illness became a vital tool in combating malaria. Soldiers were encouraged to use sleeping nets every night, apply repellant regularly and even wear rolled-down sleeves and gloves to prevent mosquito bites. Theodor Seuss Geisel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss, produced one education piece, a pamphlet about the dangerous Anopheles mosquito. Titled “THIS IS ANN…she drinks blood!” the illustrated map above was produced 70 years ago this week.

The text transcribed by the US Navy Department Library:

THIS IS ANN…..she drinks blood!

Her full name is Anopheles Mosquito and she’s dying to meet you. Her trade is dishing out MALARIA! If you’ll take a look at the map below you can see where she hangs out.

She can knock you flat so you’re no good to your country, your outfit or yourself. You’ve got the dope, the nets and stuff to lick her if you will USE IT.

Use a little horse sense and you can lick Ann. Get sloppy and careless about her and she’ll bat you down just as surely as a bomb, a bullet or a shell.


Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator


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