There have now been eight total malaria infections found in the U.S. since May, after another case was reported Tuesday by Florida health officials.
The recent cases, all of which have been found in Sarasota County, are the first locally acquired encounters to be reported on U.S. soil in the past 20 years. Up until this point, all cases of the mosquito-borne disease had stemmed from people who had traveled outside the country and then returned to the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the recent developments qualify as a public health emergency, although they do not expect it to become a nationwide problem.
U.S.-based outbreaks have been “relatively small and contained,” said Dr. Monica Parise, the director of the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria.
According to Parise, the new outbreak in Florida fits a similar pattern: “We don’t think this is going to go broadly — say, to a nationwide outbreak — for a number of reasons.”
The parasite responsible for the current spreading is not as deadly as others, according to the CDC.
Parise also pointed out that people in the U.S. have far less encounters with mosquitoes now as compared to decades ago, when homes with screens and air conditioning were less prevalent.
The sometimes-fatal disease usually results in symptoms including fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Patients can also suffer from diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, but often don’t show any symptoms until 10 to 28 days after the related mosquito bite.
The disease was considered to be eradicated from the U.S. in 1951, but around 2,000 cases still crop up every year, which until recently, have come from international travelers.
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