CDC: malaria cases on the rise in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released their latest malaria surveillance summary report, showing that approximately 2,000 cases of malaria were diagnosed and treated in the United States in 2011. In almost all of these cases, the disease was contracted overseas in regions known for malaria transmission. This is the largest number of cases reported since 1971. Among the infected, five individuals died.

Every year, millions of U.S. residents travel to countries where malaria is transmitted. Most travelers who end up contracting the disease either did not take an antimalarial drug to prevent the illness or did not take the appropriate drug or dose.

Most of these reported cases were people who had visited sub-Saharan Africa.  Although India is often believed to be a place with low risk of malaria for travelers, for the very first time, it is the individual country from which the most cases were imported into the United States. However, all travelers visiting countries where malaria is present may be at risk for infection.

There are several steps suggested to travelers to reduce their risk of contracting malaria while traveling abroad. First is to visit your doctor about 4 to 6 weeks before any out-of-country trip. Next, malaria pills should be purchased prior to travel and the prescribed dosage should always be taken correctly. Travelers should also take care to prevent mosquito bites by sleeping under bed nets, wearing pants and long sleeves and using bug repellent.

While traveling abroad or soon after returning, anyone that begins to experience symptoms such as fever and chills should seek medical attention to rule out malaria or begin prompt treatment. Malaria is a deadly, but treatable and preventable disease.

Treatment of the disease is based on a few different factors, including severity of the illness and which species of the malaria parasite is being dealt with.

The full CDC report can be viewed by visiting here.

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