How Data Is Eradicating Malaria in Zambia

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According to the CDC, people have been writing descriptions of malaria—or a disease strikingly similar to it—for over 4,000 years. How is data helping Zambian officials eradicate these parasites? Tableau Foundation's Neal Myrick opens the story to us. Below is a partial transcript. For the full interview, listen to the podcast episode by selecting the Play button above or by selecting this link or you can also listen to the podcast through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Overcast. Neal: “When somebody walks from their village to their clinic because they're sick, health officials can see that person now as the canary in a coal mine.” Ginette: “I’m Ginette.” Curtis: “And I’m Curtis.” Ginette: “And you are listening to Data Crunch.” Curtis: “A podcast about how data and prediction shape our world.” Ginette: “A Vault Analytics production.” Curtis: “This episode is brought to you by data.world, the social network for data people. Discover and share cool data, connect with interesting people, and work together to solve problems faster at data.world. Looking for a lightweight way to deliver a collection of tables in a machine-readable format? Now you can easily convert any tabular dataset into a Tabular Data Package on data.world. Just upload the file to your dataset, select 'Tabular Data Package' from the 'Download' drop-down, and now your data can be effortlessly loaded into analytics environments. Get full details at meta.data.world.” Ginette: “Today we’re talking about something that can hijack different cells in your body for what we’ve deemed nefarious purposes. It enters your bloodstream when a mosquito transfers it from someone else who has it, to you. Once it’s in your body, it makes a B-line for your liver, and when safely inside your liver, it starts creating more of itself. “Sometimes, this parasite stays dormant for a long time, but usually it only takes a few days for it to get to work. It starts replicating, and there are suddenly thousands of new babies that burst into your bloodstream from your liver. When this happens, you might get a fever because of this parasite surge. As these new baby parasites invade your bloodstream, they hunt down and hijack red blood cells. They use these blood cells to make more of themselves, and once they’ve used the red blood cells, they leave them for dead and spread out to find more. Every time a wave of new parasites leaves the cells, it spikes the number of parasites in your blood, which may cause you to have waves of fever since it happens every few days. “This parasite can causes very dangerous side effects, even death. It can cause liver, spleen, or kidney failure, and it can also cause brain damage and a coma. To avoid detection, the parasites cause a sticky surface to develop on the red blood cell so the cell gets stuck in one spot so that it doesn’t head to the spleen where it’d probably get cleaned out. When the cells stick like this, they can clog small blood vessels, which are important passageways in your body. You may have guessed it, we’re describing malaria. “It plagues little children, pregnant women, and other vulnerable people. Children in particular are incredibly vulnerable, something that’s reflected in the statistics: one child dies every two minutes from malaria. “But often outbreaks are treatable, trackable, and preventable when the data is properly captured and analyzed. The United States eradicated malaria in the 1950s. But it still plagues other areas of the world, especially sub Saharan Africa. In 2015, 92 percent of all deaths related to malaria worldwide are in sub saharan Africa. “Today, we’re talking to the man who authorized a partnership aimed at eradicating malaria in one country that’s suffered heavily from it. The results, which we’ll get to, are impressive.” Neal: “My name is Neal Myrick. I'm the director of social impact at Tableau Software and the director of Tableau Foundation.

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