U.S. Reports First Cases of Malaria in Two Decades

The CDC says the five locally acquired cases identified are the first to occur in the United States in two decades.

On June 26, the CDC issued a Health Advisory after receiving reports of five cases of locally acquired mosquito-borne malaria in two states. According to the advisory, four people in Florida and one in Texas were infected with the disease in the last two months. The infected people had not traveled outside the country and therefore acquired the disease from mosquitoes in their local area.

The Florida Department of Health says the four cases in Florida occurred in Sarasota County, and all infected individuals were treated and recovered from the illness. However, mosquito control measures are underway in the areas impacted to lower the risk of malaria transmission.

The case reported in Texas is a resident who spent time working outdoors in Cameron County. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services says no additional infections have been identified so far.

These cases are the first locally acquired malaria infections reported in the United States since 2003, when eight people in Palm Beach County, Florida, were infected with the mosquito-borne illness.

Because of the recently reported cases, the CDC urges healthcare facilities to prepare and plan for rapid access to IV artesunate — the first-line treatment for severe malaria in the United States.

In addition, because malaria is considered a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment, healthcare providers should consider a malaria diagnosis in any individual with a fever of unknown origin, regardless of their travel history.

Still, the agency assures the risk of locally acquired malaria infection in the U.S. remains extremely low.

Travel-related malaria cases, however, are expected to rise to pre-pandemic levels as U.S. residents begin to resume international travel. Before the pandemic, about 2,000 primarily travel-related malaria cases and five to ten deaths from the disease occurred in the U.S. each year.

The CDC says symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. However, some people also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If not treated promptly, the illness can progress and reach a life-threatening stage, resulting in mental status changes, seizures, renal failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and coma.

Health experts are urging people to protect themselves from this and other mosquito-borne illnesses by using an EPA-registered insect repellent and wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors. In addition, a person can prevent mosquitoes from breeding by eliminating standing water around the home.

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