It is concerning to note that malaria, a life-threatening illness transmitted by mosquitoes, is now becoming prevalent in the US. The recent discovery of five new cases, one in Texas and four in Florida, has raised alarm as the disease was locally acquired, indicating that a mosquito within the country was carrying the parasite. This is the first occurrence of such an event since 2003 in Palm Beach County, Florida, as reported by the Centers for Disease and Prevention.
Almost all cases of malaria now seen in the US are from people who traveled outside the country, where they were exposed to disease-carrying mosquitoes.
But these five new cases — seen in people who hadn’t traveled abroad — raise fears that local mosquitoes could be spreading the disease to other people.
“It’s always worrisome that you have local transmission in an area,” Estelle Martin, an entomologist at the University of Florida who researches mosquito-borne diseases, told Vox.
Malaria spreads when a person carrying the parasite gets bit by a mosquito. The parasite develops inside the mosquito, which then bites another person — or several other people, infecting them with the parasite.
But people who have the parasite in their blood don’t always have symptoms, making it easy for the disease to spread when an asymptomatic person is bit.
“Symptoms of malaria include fever, shaking, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and tiredness, according to the CDC.
If it’s not treated promptly, the infection can cause jaundice, anemia, kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma and death,” according to reports.
In the wetlands region of Sarasota County, where all four cases of Malaria in Florida were reported, mosquitoes carrying the disease were discovered. In response, local authorities used insecticides that are effective against both adult and juvenile forms of the mosquito to combat the issue.
“We have been able to make sure the mosquito population in that area is extremely low,” Wade Brennan, a Sarasota County mosquito manager, wrote to Vox in an email.