The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week about the first locally transmitted malaria cases in the country in nearly two decades.
So should you be concerned? Doctors say, not too much.
“This new outcropping of a few cases at the moment does not represent any new real disease threat to U.S. citizens,” said Dr. James Neid, an infectious disease specialist at the Medical Center of Aurora, in Colorado.
So what exactly is malaria?
“It is a parasitic infection that is acquired by a mosquito bite,” Dr. Neid said. “It’s uncommon in the United States but we do see it mostly in travelers that return from areas where malaria are endemic or where there’s a lot of cases of malaria.”
Some of the symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. More severe cases can be deadly.
“Fortunately, I think the type of malaria that’s here, the species that’s here in the U.S., isn’t the one that classically causes severe life threatening malaria, although it can. But we certainly have treatments readily available if the diagnosis is appropriately made,” Dr. Neid said.
Essentially, he said, there’s no big threat in the country at this time.
“It typically has not been able to propagate and cause a lot of cases just because there’s not a lot of reservoir and this is not a transmissible disease from human to human,” he said.
“Falciparum malaria is the feared species of malaria that can cause life threatening disease and result in death. That is not what was transmitted,” Dr. Neid explained. Different mosquitoes can carry different viral illnesses.
However, those who live in Florida and Texas, where the cases have been reported by the CDC, may want to consider prevention methods.
These can include wearing long sleeves and using mosquito repellent or mosquito nets.
Of the more than 240 million cases of malaria that occur every year worldwide, 90% are in Africa, according to the CDC. Before the pandemic, around 2,000 cases of mostly travel-related malaria were diagnosed in the U.S. Around 300 people experienced severe disease.