Five Malaria cases emerged in the Southeastern United States with four cases in Florida and one case in Texas. As a result, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issues health alert for Malaria.
Four cases of the mosquito-borne disease were reported in Sarasota and Manatee Counties in Florida. They have been diagnosed in May 26 and June 23 respectively. Another case was recorded in Cameron County in Texas on June 23. As precaution, all five patients were isolated and treated with antimalarial medicine. They have been reported to be on recovery.
Malaria is one of the mosquito-borne diseases that is known to affect humans. It comes from a parasite that lives in the mosquito and is transferred through the insects’ saliva and bites. It is one of the deadliest and the most widespread mosquito-borne disease in the world. They symptoms can be fatal, ranging from fever, headache, chills, and muscle pain. If left untreated, these symptoms can cause death for the infected patient.
Malaria: Origins and the Historical Spread in the United States
There are many diseases that mosquitoes can spread. Malaria is a specific strain that is caused by the Plasmodium parasite that lives in the insects. And because it is carried solely by mosquitoes that are everywhere, it can be deadly when spread and quickly turn into an epidemic.
When you think of Malaria, you automatically envision warm climates that are hotbeds and breeding grounds for mosquitoes. However, this disease has been known to spread worldwide. Where there are mosquitoes, there can be Malaria.
The disease has left an impact in the United States in the past, especially in the southern states where the climate is more similar to its origin countries. With the fear of an epidemic like what happened in the past, the United States has exerted more efforts in research and medicine to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Origins of Malaria
Even though it has been known to spread in the past, Malaria is actually not endemic in the Americas. Research points out the origin of the disease in Africa, where it has been for eons. However, with the slave trade and the diaspora of native Africans, the Malaria parasite have adapted to certain climates and has spread to the United States as well. The disease was mostly brought by already infected patients who traveled to the US. Once a mosquito bites an infected individual, the insect contracts Malaria, which it can spread to other people it bites.
Spread of Malaria in the United States
In the early years of the country and the booming slave trade, Malaria was a common disease. The warmer southern states took the brunt of the epidemic. The climate there is known to be more suitable as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The swamps and stagnant water around are also factors that helped the mosquitoes acclimatize to a new location. One specie of mosquitoes, the Anopheles mosquitoes, were seen as a large contributor to the spread of the disease in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The marshlands of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia, were a hotbed of Malaria in the past. There were regular outbreaks of the disease, depending on the season. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes were able to breed and propagate because of the stagnant water from marshes and swamplands.
Malaria did not only affect the health of the people. It was also a hindrance to agriculture and economy. People were getting sick and unable to provide food for their family. Industry was affected because a portion of the workforce is affected by the disease. Hence, Malaria became known by many names. It was often called “the ague,” or “fever and ague” by the common folk.
Efforts to Combat Malaria
The hardest thing about combatting Malaria and curing patients was the recurring nature of the symptoms. The fever could often takes place at night and patients would be functioning normally in the daytime, hence, it is hard to predict when the sickness would strike.
Early attempts to combat malaria in the United States were primarily focused on environmental modifications to reduce mosquito breeding sites. This included draining swamps, improving sanitation, and introducing quinine, an anti-malarial drug derived from the bark of the cinchona tree.
Additionally, the widespread use of mosquito netting, protective clothing, and the avoidance of exposure to mosquitoes during peak feeding times helped reduce the risk of infection. However, these measures were often insufficient to eliminate the disease entirely.
Significant progress in malaria control was made during the early 20th century with the establishment of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) program. These initiatives issues health alert for malaria and implemented mosquito control measures, such as larviciding, indoor residual spraying, and the introduction of new insecticides.
The Eradication of Malaria in the United States
The successful use of these control measures led to a significant decline in malaria cases in the United States. By the 1950s, malaria was eliminated from many parts of the country, including the southern states where it was once endemic.
Through improved surveillance, targeted interventions, and the development of effective anti-malarial medications, malaria was ultimately eradicated within the United States. The USPHS officially declared the country free of endemic malaria transmission in 1970.
Malaria, with its origins in Africa, had a notable historical presence in the United States, particularly in the southern states. The warm and humid climate created favorable conditions for mosquito vectors, leading to recurring malaria outbreaks. Efforts to combat the disease focused on environmental modifications, public health initiatives, and the development of effective medications.
Through these combined efforts, malaria was successfully eradicated in the United States. However, it remains a significant global health concern, particularly in regions where it is endemic. Understanding the historical spread and control of malaria serves as a reminder of the importance of ongoing surveillance and prevention efforts to keep this disease at bay and protect public health worldwide.
Malaria’s Resurgence in the Country
The five infected patients are currently considered isolated cases. The CDC issues health alert for Malaria as a result. Although, the medical community is baffled because the patients didn’t have any history of travel to malaria-endemic countries. They were also infected with Plasmodium Vivax which is the most common strain of the disease.
The CDC is working with the Florida and Texas health departments to investigate the cases of locally acquired malaria. The agency is also urging healthcare providers in the affected areas to be on the lookout for patients with symptoms of malaria, regardless of their travel history.
The risk of malaria in the United States is still considered to be very low. However, the CDC is concerned that the recent cases of locally acquired malaria could be a sign of a larger problem. The agency is urging people to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and draining standing water around their homes.