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Taking the Sting out of the Bite

Date: 08/18/2011

A systematic approach to control malaria

More than 100 years ago, British doctor Sir Ronald Ross linked female mosquitoes to malaria transmission in humans and declared that day—August 20—to be World Mosquito Day. Although mosquito bites often cause nothing more than mild, itchy skin inflammations, Ross discovered that some mosquitoes can transmit serious and potentially fatal diseases such as malaria. In addition to malaria, mosquitoes cause diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. Malaria, however, is the most widespread and devastating of these tropical diseases. It is also a grave concern in the oilfield industry since some of the world’s largest fields lie in malarial zones.

Safeguarding those at risk

Many of the 80 countries in which Schlumberger operates are in malarial zones, and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 1 million people die each year from the disease. Although malaria vaccines are in development, none are currently available. But even without vaccines, malaria is both preventable and treatable. To safeguard its employees who live and work in high-risk areas, Schlumberger established a Malaria Prevention Program that has since been adopted by more than 25 other organizations in the industry.

Prevention requires personal protection against mosquito bites. Preventive measures in high-risk areas include using insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), taking preventive antimalarial medication under medical supervision, using repellent sprays on exposed parts of the body, wearing repellent clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and coveralls, placing screens on doors and windows, fumigating homes and offices, and spraying with insecticides.

Bed nets—an easy and effective prevention measure

Of all the prevention options, insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are the easiest, least-expensive, and single most effective method of preventing mosquito bites. They provide protection both indoors and outdoors. The nets are hung over beds to keep out malarial mosquitoes that bite at night. According to the WHO, a chemically treated bed net, when used properly, can reduce malaria transmission by up to 50%. However, comfort and other practical issues are barriers to usage.

As part of its Malaria Prevention Program, Schlumberger distributes ITNs and protective clothing in high-risk zones where it operates.

Education is fundamental

Because education is fundamental to combating malaria, the Schlumberger program combines these material resources with education, including rigorous malaria awareness training. A full malaria induction is carried out when employees and their families arrive in high-risk zones and again when they leave. Employees also receive malaria kits containing rapid diagnostic test strips and a curative medication when they leave high-risk zones. A survey of employees revealed that the blood test results from the kits were confirmed by laboratory tests and that the curative medicine was effective with few side effects.

Focusing on research and raising awareness

Through his discovery, Ross laid the foundation for generations of scientific research on the mosquitoes that cause malaria. World Mosquito Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the potential dangers of mosquito bites and to focus on eliminating deaths from malaria.
According to the WHO, mosquito control is the only intervention that can reduce malaria transmission to nearly zero. As a result of increased awareness, training, and access to effective preventive and curative measures, the number of malaria cases worldwide has decreased 50% over the last 100 years.

A systematic program to fight malaria

Adding to worldwide malaria prevention undertakings, Schlumberger has implemented an ongoing, systematic, and methodical approach to prevention that includes regular formal malaria prevention audits and remedial work plans to address any perceived deficiencies in its existing program.

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