What we do — and don’t yet — know about the malaria cases in the U.S.

Five recent cases of malaria in the U.S have raised concerns, given the country had eradicated the disease in the 1950s.

Historical context: The U.S. announced the eradication of malaria in the 1950s, following a comprehensive health campaign.
* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was established in 1946, specifically to fight malaria. From 15,000 cases in 1947, the number dropped to just 2,000 by 1950.
* Yet, approximately 2,000 cases are still diagnosed each year – these are typically thought to be contracted outside U.S., rather than from a local mosquito bite.

Recent cases: The newly reported malaria cases, four in Florida and one in Texas, are not linked to international travel, which is unusual.
* The CDC noted that these infections are caused by the P. vivax parasite.
* “It’s not benign. People can feel completely wiped out, laid up and out of commission for weeks,” commented Dr. Amy Vittor, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Florida.

Potential causes: The outbreak could be the result of infected individuals unknowingly carrying the disease and local mosquitoes spreading it.
* The COVID-19 pandemic could have contributed to the detection of these cases, with common symptoms such as high fever and body aches encouraging more people to seek medical attention.
* Climate change concerns are also being raised, with warmer temperatures potentially making the U.S. more favorable for malaria-infected mosquitoes.

Global impact: According to the World Health Organization, global malaria cases have risen slightly from 245 million in 2020 to 247 million in 2021.
* Difficulties in delivering bed nets during the pandemic and global complacency are thought to be contributors to this increase.
* The WHO estimates that climate change could soon lead to an additional 250,000 deaths per year from malaria, malnutrition, and heat stress.

View original article on NPR

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