Florida health officials reported two more cases of locally acquired malaria, bringing the total number of cases to six in the state.
The two new cases were found in Sarasota County during the week of June 25 to July 1, according to the Florida Department of Health’s recent report (pdf).
Florida’s Polk, Orange, and Walton counties are currently under the mosquito-borne illness advisory, while Sarasota, Manatee, and Miami-Dade are under a mosquito-borne illness alert.
On June 26, the Florida Department of Health issued a statewide mosquito-borne illnesses advisory following four confirmed cases of malaria reported in Sarasota County.
The agency said that it is spraying insecticides to kill off mosquitos and advised people to take precautions such as applying bug spray, avoiding areas that harbor many mosquitoes, and wearing long shirts and pants. People are also being encouraged to drain standing water from around their yards.
Around the same time, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported on June 23 the detection of a local malaria case in a Texas man who was working for the National Guard along the Rio Grande. That individual, it said, had not traveled outside of the state. Texas officials are investigating whether there have been any additional infections in the state, noting that the most recent locally acquired case in Texas was in 1994.
The cases in Florida and Texas bring the total number of locally acquired malaria infections in the United States to seven since May. This marks the first local spread of malaria in the country in about 20 years. The last cases were in 2003, when eight people got sick in Palm Beach County, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC issued a health alert on June 26 asking hospitals to be on the lookout for patients with malaria symptoms and prepare to rapidly diagnose them and start administering antimalarial drugs within 24 hours.
Malaria is caused by a parasite, Plasmodium vivax, that spreads via mosquito bites, with the largest number of deaths occurring in tropical places such as sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria can be transmitted only by infected mosquitoes, not other people.
Symptoms include chills, fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea, and anemia and jaundice may also occur. If left untreated, infected individuals could develop more serious complications and die.
Treatment for malaria usually involves the use of antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine phosphate and artemisinin-based combination therapies. No malaria vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but ongoing research offers promising possibilities.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States saw around 2,000 malaria cases each year, averaging about five to 10 deaths annually, the CDC said. Most of those cases occurred in people who recently traveled outside the country and were not locally transmitted.
According to the World Malaria Report, released by the U.N. World Health Organization, there were about 247 million cases of malaria in 2021, while the estimated death toll for that year was 619,000. The WHO African Region had the highest share, accounting for about 95 percent of cases and 96 percent of deaths, it said.
Malaria was mostly eliminated in the United States in 1951 after officials sprayed the pesticide DDT and drained swamps in rural areas. DDT was ultimately banned in 1972 in the United States but is still used in African countries.
Jack Phillips and George Citroner contributed to this report.
What topics would you like to read about? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org