New Malaria Case Reported in Florida

Eight instances of malaria have been reported in the United States, with seven of those emerging in Florida, as disclosed by state health authorities on Tuesday.

This marks the first time in twenty years that cases of this disease, deemed a public health emergency, have originated within the country instead of being reported by individuals who had traveled abroad, as cautioned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month.

Florida health officials have reported that seven of these cases are in Sarasota County, including the most recent one. Meanwhile, the remaining case was reported in Texas in June, with no connection to the Florida cases as per the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Despite the gravity of the situation, public health officials do not anticipate a widespread outbreak due to a decrease in mosquito breeding sites as a result of urban expansion, and the implementation of screens and air conditioning that reduce exposure to mosquito bites.

Dr. Monica Parise, director of the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, explained to NBC News, “We don’t envision this escalating to a nationwide outbreak for multiple reasons.” She further stated that previous outbreaks in the U.S. have been “fairly localized and controlled,” a pattern that the current outbreak seems to be following.

The CDC attributes the recent cases to the Plasmodium vivax parasite, which, though not as lethal as other malaria-causing parasites, can still lead to long-term infections if it remains dormant in the liver, as reported by NBC News.

Typical symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea usually commence around 10 days after a mosquito bite. The Anopheles mosquitoes are typically the carriers of this parasite to humans, as per the CDC.

Although malaria is technically extinct in the United States, approximately 2,000 people are diagnosed with it annually, usually those who have traveled internationally, according to the CDC.

“Every malaria case can be severe and potentially fatal. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure immediate diagnosis and the right treatment with the appropriate medication in every situation,” elaborated Parise.

Treatment usually involves a three-day course of medication to eliminate the parasite in the blood, followed by a two-week home treatment to eradicate the parasite in the liver. The CDC recommends precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and trousers, and removing standing water to avoid infection.

Several patients involved in the recent outbreak have had extended hospital stays. Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an infectious disease specialist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, mentioned to NBC News, “These patients are often dehydrated and have low blood counts, particularly platelets, which increases their risk of bleeding. Some of them have even experienced renal kidney failure, a known complication of malaria.”