Cold War, Deadly Fevers: Malaria Eradication in Mexico, 1955–1975

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Cold War, Deadly Fevers: Malaria Eradication in Mexico, 1955–1975

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
DOI: 10.3201/eid1403.071564
  • Book Review


Letters.indd BOOKS & MEDIA Cold War, Deadly Fevers: Malaria Eradication in Mexico, 1955–1975 Marcos Cueto, editor Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-8018-8645-4 Pages: 288; Price: US $45.00 Marcos Cueto is a medical histori- an who describes the details of malaria eradication efforts in Mexico in the context of the Cold War era authori- tarianism. His approach works overall, but occasionally he overreaches. Mr. Cueto asserts that the politics of the time allowed the medical com- munity to be similarly authoritarian in forcing malaria eradication to be the accepted strategy. He states that the political climate relied on fear-based tactics of spreading anxiety about the communist threat and that similar strategies were used to gain public sup- port for the malaria eradication effort, incorporating military jargon such as “enemy” mosquitoes and “campaigns” against disease into the public health lexicon. These campaigns included a propaganda arm in which pop stars became champions for the cause, to make the public sympathetic to their efforts. At one point, the author likens the strategy of screening persons for asymptomatic malaria parasitemia to the 1950s McCarthy-style witch hunts for hidden communists—stretching the analogy beyond tolerable limits. A recurring theme in the book is Mr. Cueto’s skepticism of new tech- nologies, especially those introduced by other (non-Mexican) national or international organizations. He dis- parages the adoption of chloroquine, DDT, and smear microscopy as “mag- ic bullet” strategies, claiming they dis- tracted from rather than enhanced con- trol efforts. He suggests that current efforts, which tout the use of long-last- ing insecticide-treated bed nets and ar- temisinin-based combination therapy, are similarly fl awed. He never really articulates proven alternatives to the adoption of new technologies, but he vaguely suggests relying

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