Thursday 13 July 2023

CDC issues statewide alert for MALARIA in Florida after a tiny number of cases were reported

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a statewide malaria alert for Florida as cases of the mosquito-borne disease are being detected in the Sunshine State.

According to the Daily Mail, the alert followed two residents of Florida's Sarasota County contracting malaria. Local health authorities said the two individuals were diagnosed between June 25 and July 1.

The two additions brought the total number of malaria patients reported in the U.S. this year to seven. Earlier, four others from Florida and one in Texas were diagnosed with the disease mainly transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria has been detected in the U.S. again for the first time in 20 years, with officials worrying that local mosquitoes now serve as vectors for it.

At the county level, Sarasota County and neighboring Manatee County have been both under malaria alerts since June 19. Both counties said they are carrying out mosquito spraying, with Sarasota County zeroing in on coastal areas where the insects are known to frequent.

The CDC said in its advisory that doctors should still "routinely consider malaria as a cause of febrile illness among patients with a history of international travel to areas where malaria is transmitted." However, it also advised them to "consider a malaria diagnosis in any person with a fever of unknown origin regardless of their travel history." This mirrored health officials' fears that other cases of malaria may be misdiagnosed as other diseases.

Malaria was eradicated in the U.S. in the early 1950s after a massive public health program to fight it. The endeavor featured pesticides being sprayed from aircraft onto mosquito breeding grounds and potential breeding sites for the insects drained. While sporadic cases have repeatedly popped up since then, these have not led to wider community transmission.

Early warning signs of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and nausea. If left untreated, malaria can cause serious complications such as diminished red blood cells and organ failure.

Asymptomatic carrier may have reintroduced malaria to America

Penn State University mosquito expert Dr. Jason Rasgon told the Mail that the seven cases of malaria recently reported were no different from the occasional cases of the disease. He added: "This happens every once in a while."

Rasgon posited two theories as to how the malaria cases likely emerged. First, mosquitoes infected with the malaria-causing Plasmodium vivax parasite may have stowed away on a plane. Second, someone with malaria that did not show any symptoms may have been responsible.

"Somebody came in from someplace with malaria; probably an asymptomatic carrier. Some local mosquitoes then picked this up and bit other people – causing disease," explained Rasgon.

Dr. William Pan, associate professor of population studies and global environmental health at Duke University's Global Health Institute, meanwhile warned about the danger of malaria returning to the United States.

"It's not uncommon to have malaria be identified in the U.S.," he told Health. "What is uncommon is that there's actual local transmission."

"We haven't had malaria in the U.S. for 20-some years, and it was eradicated back in the '50s. If it were to reintroduce itself in the U.S., just like other places around the world, it would pose a major health disaster."

Malaria can be treated using medications that target the P. vivax parasite responsible for the disease. Such drugs include hydroxychloroquine, which former President Donald Trump endorsed as a cure for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.  

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