Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Malaria Cases Reported in the U.S. For the First Time in 20 Years

Five cases of malaria have been reported in the United States over the past two months. This is the first time there have been locally acquired cases of malaria in 20 years. The last reported case of malaria caught locally in the U.S. was in 2003 in Palm Beach County, Florida.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four of the recent cases originated in Florida while one was detected in Texas. At this time, the cases in the two states are not believed to be related to one another.

Because the four cases in Florida originated in the same vicinity, public health authorities are currently monitoring the area to see if anyone else gets sick. They are also trying to control the local mosquito population.

locally acquired malaria in us
This is the first time Malaria has spread in the U.S. in 20 years

In Texas, public health officials are also looking out for other cases and trying to monitor the insect population for the disease.

Fortunately, all five individuals who were diagnosed with malaria are improving with treatment.

Usually, travelers from the U.S. get sick with malaria after traveling to an area where the disease is more rampant. Outside of the U.S., there are 240 million cases each year, the majority of which are in Africa.

However, scientists have been warning individuals that malaria can become more common as temperatures go up due to the climate crisis. Malaria can also spread through unsafe needle-sharing practices, organ transplants, and blood transfusions. Not only that but it can also spread from mother to fetus.

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by a parasite that’s spread to humans by mosquitos. It’s most commonly seen in hot and humid areas, such as the Pacific Islands, Africa, South America, and South Asia.

Those who are at an increased risk of serious disease include infants, young children, older adults, and pregnant women.

When the infected mosquito bites an individual, the malaria parasite is introduced to the bloodstream, where it begins to multiply. Left untreated, it can cause severe health complications including trouble breathing, brain damage, seizures, organ failure, and even death.

malaria life cycle
The lifecycle of the Malaria parasite

Symptoms of malaria are similar to those of the flu and may include: fever, sweating, fatigue, chest pain, breathing difficulties, cough, nausea and vomiting, headache, muscle aches, and diarrhea. As the disease progresses, it can also cause anemia and jaundice, the latter of which causes the skin to turn yellow.

Generally speaking, symptoms of the disease appear 10 to 30 days after an individual is infected. Rarely, the parasite can live in the body for several years before causing issues. In some cases, the parasite may become inactive in the liver for a few years before being re-released into the bloodstream.

Treatment for Malaria

Fortunately, there are medications that are capable of killing the malaria parasite. Some common drugs include Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Mefloquine, and Quinine. Depending on the type of parasite, you may have to take the medication in combination with other drugs.

Prompt medical treatment is key to preventing severe symptoms and death. Keep in mind, however, that while the drugs will cure you of malaria, you can get the infection for a second time if you’re bitten by another infected mosquito.

antimalarial drugs
Antimalarial drugs are effective at eradicating malaria infections if used properly

Those who plan on traveling to an area where the disease is common can also protect themselves by taking antimalarial medications. They will significantly reduce the risk of getting malaria if taken before, during, and after the trip.

Using mosquito repellent, mosquito netting, and insect screens may also help lower the chance of getting the disease. Wearing long sleeves and long pants to cover the skin will also help. You can also treat your clothing with permethrin, a well-known insect repellent.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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