On this day October 28, 1948

Swiss chemist Paul Müller is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT in the control of vector diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.

Malaria remains a major public health challenge in many parts of the world. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 250 million cases every year, resulting in almost 1 million deaths.

About 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, and mostly to children under the age of 5.

Spraying DDT is one of many public health interventions currently used to fight the disease. Malaria has infected humans for over 50,000 years, and may have been a human pathogen for the entire history of our species.

Indeed, close relatives of the human malaria parasites remain common in chimpanzees, our closest relatives. References to the unique periodic fevers of malaria are found throughout recorded history, beginning in 2700 BC in China.

The National Malaria Eradication Program, a cooperative undertaking by State and local health agencies of 13 Southeastern States and the Communicable Disease Center of the U. S. Public Health Service, originally proposed by Dr. L. L. Williams, commenced operations on July 1, 1947.

The program consisted primarily of DDT application to the interior surfaces of rural homes or entire premises in counties where malaria was reported to have been prevalent in recent years. By the end of 1949, over 4,650,000 house spray applications had been made.

These efforts were so successful that at the end of the war and the founding of CDC, one of the initial tasks was to oversee the completion of the elimination of malaria as a major public health problem. In 1949, the country was declared free of malaria as a significant public health problem.


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