Record Number Of Malaria Cases Found In The US: CDC Report
November 1, 2013

Record Number Of Malaria Cases Found In The US: CDC Report

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Each year, across the globe, malaria affects hundreds of millions of people with most cases stemming from third-world countries throughout Africa and surrounding regions. While this deadly disease was largely eradicated from United States by the 1950s, a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the fact that cases do still occur in the US.

In its latest report, the CDC noted that in 2011, health experts saw the highest number of malaria cases in the US in more than 40 years, with 1,925 confirmed infections. While this number is particularly disturbing in a country that had taken on widespread measures in the early 20th century to put an end to this deadly disease, the CDC wrote that almost all of the cases reported in the US in 2011 were acquired overseas.

The 2011 malaria year saw the highest number of cases since 1971 and represents a 14 percent increase in cases from just the year before. In 2011, five people in US died from malaria or associated complications. About 69 percent of the cases in US individuals were imported from Africa, with 63 percent of those acquired in West Africa. For the first time, however, a large portion of the cases in 2011 were imported from India, with seasonal peaks occurring in January and August.

“Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.”

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 219 million malaria cases throughout the world in 2010, with about 660,000 deaths. While significant, global malaria rates have fallen drastically (25 percent) since 2000. Additionally, a 33-percent drop in cases has been observed in the African Region since 2000.

Malaria is caused by the parasitic protozoan genus Plasmodium and is transmitted through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. The signs and symptoms of the disease are varied, but the majority of patients who contract the illness have fever. Symptoms can also include headache, backache, chills, sweating, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cough. Infections that go untreated can progress to coma, kidney failure, respiratory distress, and ultimately death.

Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, iterated the fact that this disease is largely preventable, with illness and death being avoided by taking the appropriate preventive measures.

“We have made great strides in preventing and controlling malaria around the world. However, malaria persists in many areas and the use of appropriate prevention measures by travelers is still very important,” said Slutsker in a statement.

The most common ways to avoid contracting the illness when traveling to malaria-infected regions is to use antimalarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets and wear protective clothing. Those in the US who plan to travel to these regions should also consult their health-care providers prior to travel to receive needed information, medications and vaccines. The CDC also offers advice on malaria prevention recommendations on its website. Those who do visit affected regions and show possible signs or symptoms of malaria either while traveling or after returning home should seek medical help immediately to seek diagnosis and proper treatment.

Clinicians who diagnose and treat malaria patients could also do well to contact the CDC for additional support. As the country’s lead public health agency, the CDC helps protect the health of US citizens traveling abroad, as well as those who live in malaria-affected regions. It also monitors malaria rates in the US and works efficiently with healthcare systems to help diagnose and treat malaria.

The CDC also works with several international agencies, including the WHO and Ministries of Health in malaria-endemic countries to develop guidance strategies, implement prevention and control measures and conduct scientific research.