Deadly Mosquitoes Invade Venezuela’s Gold Mines

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Do you know what the deadliest animal on the planet is?  If you guessed a shark, or a snake, or a lion, you are wrong.  The answer is the mosquito. Mosquitoes infect people with Malaria.  Between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria are recorded each year and more than 1 million people a year die from malaria.  Malaria was disappearing, but recently it seems to be making a comeback, which is not a good thing. In no other country has malaria been causing as much damage as in Venezuela.

If you are unfamiliar with malaria, here is a little background knowledge.  First off, not all mosquitoes carry malaria.  In fact, the only mosquito that transmits malaria is the Anopheles Mosquito, which is found all over the world (except Antarctica). There are many mosquito species, such as the Plasmodium Falciparum, which is more common that the Anopheles in Africa, but it doesn’t carry the parasite that transmits malaria; only the Anopheles do.  You see, it isn’t the Mosquito that infects you, but the parasite it carries.  The way people catch malaria is that the mosquito bites you and breaks the skin, which allows the malaria parasite into the bloodstream where the parasite starts to infect the red blood cells.  Once you are infected with malaria, you can spread it if the mosquito bites you and then bites somebody else, or a mother is infected and she is breastfeeding, or blood transfusions.  The symptoms of malaria are fever, headache, and vomiting.  These symptoms are not noticeable until at least seven days after being infected.  Symptoms may take up to four weeks to appear after infection, but seven days is the earliest people start to feel sick. Once you feel the symptoms, you need to go get treatment immediately.  People who don’t get treatment right away, their malaria will turn into anemia, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria. Cerebral malaria can cause a coma, life-long disabilities, and even death. The only way to treat malaria is to go to the clinic or hospital where the doctor is going to give you antibiotics that will kill the malaria parasite and make you healthy again.  Remember, if you don’t get treatment right away, even the antibiotics might not cure you. This is why Venezuela has a rising malaria problem.  

If you didn’t know, Venezuela is a country located on South America’s northern coast.  Venezuela’s population is approximately 29,000,00 people and while Spanish the most common language used there, there are also indigenous dialects. Venezuela is known around the world for its petroleum industry, but at the local level it is known for its gold mines.  It is these mines that have created the malaria problem.  

The mines have become a problem because the employment rate right now in Venezuela is going down little by little and the people have to look for some other job that will pay them a decent amount; enough to support their family.  However, working in the mines is not a decent job.  There are lots of pools of water in and around the mines, and these pools of water breed mosquitoes — the Anopheles Mosquito.  So, people who work in the mines get bitten by these mosquitoes and get sick right away.  Approximately 100,000 men have contracted malaria in the mines, because they have to go to the mines just to get money for their families. These men who work in the mines go home and the disease can spread if they are bitten by mosquitoes and then the mosquito bites somebody else.

It is not just the adults who are getting malaria.  Often working in the mines doesn’t pay enough money, so kids in high school and college have to drop out and go work to help the family; they abandon their education just to go work in the mines to be able to support their families. For example according to the article Hard Times in Venezuela Breed Malaria as Desperates Flock to Mines, Josue Guevara, 20, gave up last November on his university studies in industrial engineering in a city about 10 hours away. He once pictured as a manager at the state-owned aluminum company, Alcoa. But his family members who worked there could barely afford food. “Now I have other goals,” he said, standing at the edge of the Cuatro Muertos mines , where he lives and works today. Yet, these goals are not what he really wants, but what he has to do to help out family. People like Josue Guevara that have to leave their education just to got to the mines and work is sad, but I understand why the students have to leave their education. If their families don’t get paid that well where they work and the students need to leave their education to go work and help their families; that is totally understandable.  However, factor in getting infected with malaria and the decision is even worse.

It isn’t just that more people are getting infected that is the problem; lack or proper treatment has made Venezuela’s malaria problem become almost an epidemic; some people even argue it is an epidemic.   It has become such a big issue not only because of the people and kids getting sick from malaria, but also because there has not been enough medicine that can help the people get cured. A lot of people have malaria, catch it in time, and go to the hospitals and clinics for treatment.  The problem is that the hospitals have fun out of medicine for the patients.  The have also run out of supplies, like gloves, making it unsafe to treat sick patients.

Malaria in Venezuela had all but disappeared and for several years it was hard to find malaria in that country.  However, Malaria came back;  really hard this time. The only reason it came back was because the economy became so bad.  According to the article Hard Times in Venezuela Breed Malaria as Desperate Flock to Mines, published in the New York Times, “the economic breakdown has triggered a great migration in Venezuela, and right behind it is the spread of malaria, said Dr. Moreno, a researcher at a state-run laboratory in the mining region. With this breakdown comes a disease that is cooked in the same pot.”  If the economy would improve, than malaria might start to disappear again.  Right now though, kids are exchanging their education and dreams for a deadly disease and we are all just letting it happen.  There are lots of programs that you can donate to that will help end this problem.  The money you give can go to simple solutions, like sleeping nets so people don’t get bitten while sleeping, to more complex ones like getting medical supplies.  So, the next time you are fishing at the lake, or having a picnic, or camping, and you hear that annoying high-pitched whine of a mosquito — don’t be annoyed.  Consider yourself lucky that all you might get is an itch — if you lived in Venezuela, that might be the sound of your death.



Casey, Nicholas. “Hard Times In Venezuela Breed Malaria as Desperate Flock to Mines.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Graphiq. “Malaria in Venezuela.” Health Grove. Graphiq Inc, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Hardy, Jay. “Who Is the Biggest Killer on the Planet?” The Most Deadly Animals: Mosquitoes – Anopheles and Malaria(n.d.): n. pag. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.


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