Tuesday, February 16, 2010

King Tut's Curse

Celebrities draw attention to the diseases that ail them. This is true even if the celebrity is over three-thousand years old. Several media channels released reports pinning the death of King Tutankhamun, a famous pharaoh who died at a young age, on "a severe bout of malaria combined with a degenerative bone condition" (New York Times).

Results from the recent study of Tut's mummy show that he had several genetic bone disorders and that he was "afflicted with avascular bone necrosis, a condition in which diminished blood supply to the bone leads to serious weakening or destruction of tissue." In an already weakened individual, malaria is often fatal. "The finding led to the team's conclusion that it and malaria were the most probable causes of death" (New York Times).

Malaria was nearly impossible to escape during the time of King Tut. Mosquitoes bred in the Nile Valley, fed off whomever they encountered--royalty or not--and carried malaria. In modern times, approximately one million people die from malaria every year. Most of those who die are children, women, and already ill people. Today, a malaria-stricken individual can be treated for malaria. A variety of drugs combat the malaria parasites that cause illness in humans. Malaria can also be prevented through the use of insecticides, mosquito nets, and preventative medicines.

King Tut may not have been so lucky. While the pharaoh may have been able to hide from mosquitoes behind a bed net (a method of malaria prevention still used today), he did not have extensive medical treatments available to him--a fate that still befalls many today.

250 million cases of malaria are reported annually. Many of the humans who fall ill to malaria do not have the medical resources they need to survive. Over three-thousand years after Tut's death, people still suffer and die from malaria. But now, malaria is treatable and preventable. The problem is getting the necessary medical treatment to those in need.

My suggestion: Let the dead do what they do, and worry instead about the people dying today.

Support Roll Back Malaria and Malaria No More. Treating a bout of malaria costs under $5.00. A $10 bednet can save two lives.

New York Times. Wilford, John Noble. "Malaria Most Likely Killed King Tut, Scientists Say." 16 February 2010.

Telegraph. Alleyne, Richard. "King Tut died of malaria and bone condition, says new research." 16 February 2010.

Credit: @followthethread deserves recognition for her alert. She's on my Do Not Bite list.

Photo source: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen (via wikimedia creative commons archives)

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