The Sunshine State of Florida has recently reported two new cases of locally acquired malaria. Marking the first such instances in two decades, the emergence of these cases has ushered in a state of high alert. Coupled with another reported case from Texas, these developments have brought the total number of locally acquired cases in the U.S. this year to seven.
The Florida Department of Health confirmed this alarming news, revealing that all these malaria cases emerged from Sarasota County. The department has issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory for Orange, Polk, and Walton counties while escalating the alert level for Manatee, Miami-Dade, and Sarasota counties.
Florida issues malaria alert as 2 more cases discovered, first locally acquired US cases in 20 years https://t.co/LcNKFrJN5I
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) July 9, 2023
These developments represent a significant departure from typical malaria occurrences in the U.S. Annually, around 2,000 malaria cases are diagnosed in the U.S. Still, the vast majority of these instances involve travelers or immigrants from countries where malaria is prevalent.
Malaria is transmitted to humans through the bite of certain types of mosquitoes found primarily in tropical regions. Symptoms can be severe, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever, and chills. If left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly and can prove fatal.
Addressing this issue, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an infectious disease specialist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, remarked, “Some of the cases were sort of neglecting the symptoms and they presented way late with other complications.” This insight underscores the importance of being alert and seeking timely medical help in the face of such symptoms, especially in the wake of these new developments.
In light of the newly emerging local cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with health departments in Florida and Texas. The CDC stated, “There is no evidence to suggest the cases in the two states are related,” offering some reassurance to citizens.
While this news is undoubtedly cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. On July 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the rollout of the first-ever malaria vaccine in Africa. According to WHO, the vaccine, RTS,S/AS01, has been administered to over 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019 and has been effective in significantly reducing severe malaria cases and child deaths.
While the vaccine represents a monumental step forward, it does not immediately alleviate the concerns facing Florida and Texas. However, it should act as a reminder of the ongoing global battle against diseases like malaria, even in a developed nation like the U.S. With vigilance, prevention measures, and timely medical intervention, it’s hopeful that these cases will remain isolated incidents and not a resurgence of a formidable foe.
The CDC has advised taking precautions such as controlling mosquitoes at home, learning about health risks and precautions for malaria before travel, consulting a healthcare provider about preventative medicines if traveling to a malaria-prone area, and seeking immediate medical attention if symptoms develop after travel to such areas.