Focus at Four: A&M expert talks prevention following malaria diagnosis in Texas
Malaria is caused by a parasite that spreads through bites from Anopheles mosquitoes.
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says millions of U.S. residents travel to countries where malaria is present every year.
About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States annually, mostly in returned travelers.
Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa have the greatest risk of both getting malaria and dying from their infection. However, all travelers to countries where malaria is present may be at risk for infection.
The Florida Department of Health has issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after four locally contracted cases of malaria were reported along the Gulf Coast south of Tampa.
This week, a health alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted that another case has been detected in Cameron County, located in South Texas.
The cases mark the first time there has been a local spread of malaria in the United States in 20 years.
“What we expect that that means, is that an infected person with malaria was present in the United States, probably through travel and then a mosquito bit that person and picked up the parasite and transmitted it to another person,” said Dr. Rebecca Fischer, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health.
Health officials say the four Florida residents received treatment and have recovered. Fischer said the state of Texas is monitoring and practicing mosquito control efforts.
“In the case of Texas, where this occurred, we know that their mosquito control efforts are really good,” said Fisher. “So it’s unlikely that a mosquito carrying malaria will make it outside of that area.”
Malaria is caused by a parasite that spreads through bites from Anopheles mosquitoes. It causes fever, chills, sweats, nausea and vomiting, and headaches.
“Symptoms can take a long time to show up,” said Fisher. “Treatment is available for this disease, and if it’s not eliminated from the body, this particular parasite can cause recurrent illness over time.”
You can find out more about malaria on the CDC’s website.
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