Malaria was first identified by the Ancient Romans. The name derived from the bad-smelling air that hung like a miasma over the city in the summer months and the disease was thought to be spread by breathing. The main symptom of the disease is a high fever. The disease destroys red blood cells and before the 20th century often resulted in death.
The disease is caused by a parasite that is transferred to humans by a mosquito bite. Malaria is therefore a problem for people living close to marshes. The disease can be removed from an area by draining the land. The cause of malaria was discovered in 1880 and this has enabled successful drugs to be developed against the disease. However, someone still dies of malaria every 15 seconds and it is estimated that 500 people are infected every year.