On June 26, the Centers for Disease Control issued a health advisory about four locally-acquired cases of malaria in Florida and two in Texas within the past two months. In addition, there is concerns for a potential rise in imported malaria cases associated with increased international summer travel.
According to the CDC. there is no evidence the Florida and Texas cases are related.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. In 2020 an estimated 241 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 627,000 people died, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
According to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Florida has reported four confirmed cases of malaria in Sarasota County this year. All individuals have been treated and have recovered.
The largest locally-acquired malaria outbreak in recent Florida history occurred in Palm Beach County in 2003 where there were eight cases.
In 2012, 65 cases of imported malaria were reported in Florida. Forty-five cases (69%) were diagnosed with P. falciparum, 16 (25%) with P. vivax, two (3%) with P. ovale, two with P. malariae (3 %). All 65 cases were associated with travel or immigration. Reasons given for traveling to a malaria endemic county included: 43% visiting friends and relatives (VFR), 29% for business (including missionary and military), 9% of cases were recent immigrants, 8% tourism, 5% students or teachers, and 6% unknown reason.
In most cases, symptoms of malaria usually develop between seven and 30 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. However, it can develop up to a year after exposure and if not treated properly can cause additional “relapses.” Symptoms include fever, chills, sweats, headache, nausea and vomiting, body aches, and general malaise. Persons experiencing symptoms and who have been in an area with malaria are encouraged to see a doctor immediately.
According to FDOH, there are 14 Anopheles mosquito species in Florida, all of which are potentially capable of transmitting malaria.
FDOH encourages Florida residents and visitors to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites:
• If possible, remain indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period between dusk and dawn:
• Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house. If no screening or air conditioning is available, use pyrethroid-containing repellent in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours and sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors.
• Use insect repellent when outdoors. Sprays that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) offer good protection. Follow the directions on the product label.
• Higher concentrations of DEET may have a longer repellent effect; however, concentrations over 50% provide no added protection. Timed-release DEET products may have a longer repellent effect than liquid products.
• DEET should not be used on children younger than two months. Assist children less than 10 years old with application of repellant. Avoid applying repellant to young children’s hands, or around their eyes and mouth.
• Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
• Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
• Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet’s water bowls at least once or twice a week.
• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
• Maintain swimming pools and keep appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
Floridians may also be at risk from other mosquito-borne illnesses. FDOH continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, chikungunya, and dengue. Residents of Florida are encouraged to report dead birds to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.