One of America’s first domestic malaria patients in two decades has been revealed to be a 21-year-old National Guardsman on the Texas-Mexico border.
Christopher Shingler, who was stationed on the Rio Grande near Brownsville, woke up shaking one night in late May, which quickly turned into a fever and vomiting.
Initially, doctors ruled out his illness as a viral infection, but when medications failed to cure the illness in early June, further tests were performed.
Shingler had not recently traveled outside of the US, leading doctors not to initially consider another disease such as malaria.
But then, to everyone’s surprise, the swabs revealed that he had been infected with the pathogen. Since then, doctors have been told to always consider malaria in any patient who comes to the ward with a fever, even if they haven’t traveled recently.
Christopher Shingler, who was stationed at the Rio Grande, is one of the first malaria patients in the United States in two decades. The 21-year-old began suffering from chills, fever and vomiting in late May from his infection.
There have also been six cases in Florida. Four of these were diagnosed and treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital (pictured) and doctors said the patients arrived with fever and dehydration.
Shingler said: ‘I would wake up very early in the morning and start shaking. It was a lot to go out of my way to force myself to eat something, as small as I could, which was usually unsuccessful.
Shingler is one of seven malaria cases diagnosed in the US since May and the only one in Texas.
The other six are all in Florida, and local doctors say they are mostly homeless people who have suffered from dehydration and fever.
Describing your symptoms to nbc newsShingler said he would also have a hard time keeping down the water he drank.
The National Guard was hospitalized for at least ten days, before being released last month. He has fully recovered.
Shingler isn’t sure where he contracted malaria, but he was often on duty at night, when mosquitoes are most active.
“We were being torn apart by mosquitoes, chiggers, whatever you can think of, you can name it,” he said.
“They were tearing us apart the whole time we were there, especially that first night.”
The doctors tested him for covid before diagnosing malaria.
Chiggers, also known as harvest mites or berry bugs, are small red mites that can bite humans.
Shingler did not know that anyone else in his group had come down with malaria.
Announcing the case in Texas, the state health department said it had been detected in Cameron County, which includes Brownsville, and in a person who had not recently traveled outside of the United States.
Six cases of malaria have also been detected in Florida since May of this year, four of which were treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an infectious disease expert at the hospital who helped treat the patients, said they had been arriving on wards since late May with symptoms including fever and dehydration.
Several were homeless, he said, and had waited to go to the hospital until the late stages of the infection.
He added: “Some of the cases neglected the symptoms and presented much later with other complications.”
No details were given of the patients’ ages, genders, how long they were in the hospital and how they were treated.
The patients included the first to be detected in Florida and the two most recent cases. The other two were diagnosed and treated at other state hospitals.
Mr. Shingler, pictured above, isn’t sure where he got infected, but said that every night the mosquitoes would “rip them apart.”
All of Florida is under a malaria advisory, as is Sarasota County – where cases have been detected – and neighboring Manatee County.
Dr. Gordillo added, “These cases, native here from Sarasota, we haven’t seen cases that were [local infections]…since the 1950s, which is the time malaria transmission was eradicated from the United States.
“We see malaria in Sarasota a few cases a year, but this is in travelers and not locally acquired.”
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Early warning signs of the disease include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and nausea.
Without treatment, these can develop into complications such as anemia (a low red blood cell count) and organ failure, which can be fatal.
Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year, with 619,000 deaths recorded in 2021. With treatment, most cases are not fatal, but if they progress to the severe stage, the disease almost always leads to death.
Dr. Manuel Gordillo, of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, treated four of the six malaria patients in Florida
There are about 2,000 cases of the disease in the US each year, estimates suggest, but all are related to travelers who have entered the country.
The last time a mosquito-borne disease occurred in the US was in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
All of Florida is under a malaria alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 26.
Sarasota County, where malaria has been detected, and neighboring Manatee County are also under their own malaria alert.
Sarasota-based officials say they have begun spraying along coastal areas where mosquitoes are known to live to control the situation.
Residents are urged to use insect repellent, avoid areas with mosquitoes, and wear long clothing, especially at night, to avoid infection.
Doctors in the state were also warned at the end of June to consider any feverish patient arriving at the hospital as a possible case of malaria.
The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, which transmit it to humans by sucking their blood. Human beings cannot transmit the disease to each other.
Experts suggest that malaria likely returned to Florida after mosquitoes bit someone returning from abroad who had the infection.
The insects then contracted the disease and transmitted it to other humans when bitten, triggering local cases.
Malaria was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s after a massive public health program that sprayed pesticides from airplanes and drained potential mosquito breeding grounds.
But sporadic cases have repeatedly appeared since then, although they are generally related to international travel and have not led to wider transmission.