Five cases of malaria have been confirmed in Florida and Texas, the first time the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease has been acquired locally in the United States in 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.
The four cases in Florida, as well as one in Texas, were diagnosed over a two-month period, the agency said.
The state of Florida said its first case was diagnosed May 26 in Sarasota County, while Texas officials said June 23 that a Texas resident who worked outdoors in the county of Cameron had been diagnosed with the disease.
The CDC said in an alert released Monday that malaria is considered a medical emergency and anyone with symptoms should be “evaluated urgently.”
However, the CDC said the risk of malaria remains low in the United States and most cases are acquired when people travel outside the country. 95% of malaria infections are contracted in Africa, the health agency said.
Malaria is caused by five species of parasites carried by certain female mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting may also occur. Malaria can cause life-threatening damage, including kidney failure, seizures and coma.
The state of Florida has issued a mosquito-borne disease alert and advised residents to drain pools of standing water, make sure window screens don’t have holes in them, and use insect repellent containing DEET to prevent mosquito bites. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are also recommended when mosquitoes are present.
The state of Texas also issued a health alert, advising clinicians to routinely obtain travel history to determine if a patient with symptoms of malaria has spent time outdoors and been bitten by mosquitoes in a area where malaria is prevalent.
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