51: Malaria

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The malaria party was David's idea.
Title text: The malaria party was David's idea.


This comic humorously combines the pox partys with more dangerous diseases like malaria. In these "parties" adults bring their children to deliberately expose them to a virus to promote immunity. This is commonly done for a childhood disease like chickenpox and measles.

In this comic we see four Cueball-like children in party hats with a balloon lying on the ground. As it says their malaria party did not turn out to be fun.

Some illnesses are more serious for adults than children. For example chickenpox is far less severe than its adult onset form shingles, and after contracting chickenpox the immune system has developed antibodies for it and so is not as vulnerable to the virus, and the person is immune for a significant period of time, possibly life. For more dangerous diseases like measles vaccines are used to prevent illness. However, malaria does not work this way, but instead once one has suffered from malaria, it can recur on its own even after apparent healing from symptoms. So having a malaria party would not promote immunity, but only make people sick and further vulnerable in the future. A Malaria party would be an especially bad idea as many could suffer significant illness and die, but it is similarity a bad idea to expose your children (and thus also others) to potentially lethal and damaging diseases like measles instead of taking a safer vaccine.


Malaria is a Mosquito-borne disease of humans and other animals caused by protists (a type of microorganism) of the genus Plasmodium. It begins with a bite from an infected female mosquito, which introduces the protists, via its saliva, into the circulatory system, and ultimately to the liver where they mature and reproduce. The disease causes symptoms that typically include fever and headache, which in severe cases can progress to coma or death.


There has been a lot of controversy over the MMR vaccine which works against measles, mumps and rubella. Whereas the last two are only dangerous to adults, and only because they can affect the abilities to have children, measles are a very dangerous disease also for children. In the US between 1987 and 2000 there were a 0.3% risk of a fatal complication. It can be much worse in underdeveloped countries. The controversy was based on a claim in an article that was later completely discredited. But this incidence has still caused many parents to keep their children out of this program.

So now parents deliberately take their children to measles parties like the Malaria party here. And although they may become immune if they survive (as opposed to malaria) then there is still a serious risk of death or other complications. And this lack of vaccination can reduce the Herd immunity that would protect infants, the weak and those with a poor immune system from catching these diseases.


[For Cueball-like children wearing party hats, a discarded balloon is lying to the right. The first part of the text is written above the children, the second below.]
We had a malaria party
but it turned out not to be very much fun.


  • This was the 49th comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
  • This comic kept it's original title: "Malaria"
  • It is part of the last six comics on LiveJournal which all had a title without the word "Drawing" in it.
    • Five of these had exactly the same title on both sites.
    • Only 11 comics have the same title on both sites.
    • Apart from the thirteen first comics posted to LiveJournal, there were only three other comics without the word "Drawing" in the title before these last six.
  • Original Randall quote: "Current Mood: Credit to David for this one"
    • In this version he give David credit. In the title text it is more like he blames him for the idea.
  • This comic was one of the last 11 comics posted on LiveJournal.
  • For some reason 54: Science was posted before this one on LiveJournal on the 18th of January 2006, but first a week later on xkcd on the 25th of January 2006.
    • So 51: Malaria were released on xkcd the same day as 54: Science came out on LiveJournal on Wednesday the 18th of January 2006 .
    • It then came out on LiveJournal three days later on Saturday the 21th of January 2006.
    • The release date here on explain xkcd uses the first release date, so that is the one on xkcd.
  • After the mishap with 54: Science the next three comics came out on LiveJournal a release day later.
    • First with the last comic released on LiveJournal, 55: Useless, did the two sites release the same comic on the same day again.

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They look to be standing up. The black flecks appear to be confetti, and they are all at or below foot level. Their feet and arms do not give the impression of corpses. 15:11, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

This entire thing is off. Does anyone else notice that there is no vaccine against Malaria? Thus, the entire discussion about vaccines is pointless. Time for me to do some editing! 15:22, 17 October 2015 (UTC)

I don't know if this was part of the explanation that was removed, but as the comic and the explanation allude to and include pox parties, which are often done for infectious diseases that can be vaccinated against, I decided to re-add some vaccination information. I think it ia as much a topic of the comic as Malaria, which is why I put it in a seperate section, similar to the malaria information. Also I think the fact that there is one single time where humanity actually has to be applauded for making something go extinct was in my opinion interesting and cool enough to be included, even if it's perhaps one step removed from the actual comic itself. I actually had to hold myself back to not include a whole story about how they found out that for some wierd reason milkmaids would way more seldom get sick than other people, and find out that most of them had had cowpox, which is relatively harmless (especially in comparison with something like smallpox)and create the first vaccination from the cowpox variant. Actually the word vaccination comes from vacca, the latin ord for cow... so cool. 04:55, 16 July 2017 (UTC)

The explanation now isn’t much different than the explanation before, most of it was added back later. You can see exactly what was changed with View History. Yes, I know this is from two years ago. Netherin5 (talk) 14:13, 21 March 2019 (UTC)

Surely the joke is that malaria can't be transmitted from one human to another, so being around someone infected with malaria at a "malaria party" wouldn't expose you? It's not contagious, you have to get it from a mosquito, so hanging out with infected humans as depicted would be pointless. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)