Malaria in the U.S
The mosquito-borne disease has made its way to the United States as travelers return from countries where malaria is prevalent. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene finds that at least 1,500-2,000 people are hospitalized each year in American hospitals with malaria.
In a recent post, we talked about how one of Bill Gates’ major goals was to help solve the massive malaria problem that continues to plague third-world countries—he’s donated billions of dollars to the cause. Malaria is a life-threatening tropical disease that spreads through parasites.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and it kills almost half a million people each year, many of them children under 5 in Africa.
Many people think that advances in medical science have more or less solved the problem of infectious disease. While this is true for most developed countries, the CDC estimates that 627,000 people died of malaria in 2012 (and 200 million people were infected).
90% of those malaria deaths happened in Africa, and 77% of them were children under the age of 5. Aside from this tragic loss of life, the loss of economic productivity caused by malaria is in the billions of dollars each year.
Where Did Malaria Come from?
Even though Anopheles mosquitoes take the brunt of the blame for malaria, they’re not the guilty party—that would be protozoans of the Plasmodium genus. These protozoans infect the mosquitoes and end up in their saliva, and when the (usually female) mosquito bites a person, the Plasmodium parasite is introduced into the person’s bloodstream.
From there, it travels to the liver, where it grows, spreads, and reproduces explosively inside the person’s liver and blood.
Symptoms of Malaria
The symptoms resemble the flu and usually appear seven days after initial infection, while others can take up to a month for the symptoms to show. Fever is the most common symptom. Others include vomiting, headache, joint pain, and diarrhea.
The liver is the first stage of malaria infection, and from there it moves to red blood cells—the second stage.For that reason, malaria is usually diagnosed with blood work. If the infections aren’t immediately addressed, they will cause some severe effects such as kidney failure, seizure, coma and possibly death.
Malaria in the U.S.
Although malaria transmission is almost wiped out in the U.S. through the use of insecticides and window screens, you can still get the disease when you travel to certain regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
The mosquito-borne disease has made its way to the U.S. as travelers return from countries where malaria is prevalent. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene finds that at least 1,500-2,000 people are hospitalized each year in American hospitals with malaria.
Malaria experts say that there has been no active transmission in the U.S. since the disease was eliminated in the early 1950s. They assume that cases of malaria in the country are caused by the returning of travelers and immigrants, who have made visits to their home countries such as India, Africa, and the Carribean and haven’t prepared with precautions against malaria infection.
“Although malaria transmission is almost wiped out in the U.S. through the use of insecticides and window screens, you can still get the disease when you travel to certain regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.”
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Prevention and Treatment
There’s no vaccine for it, but if you’re traveling to a country where it’s prevalent, there are several anti-malaria medications or pills (chemoprophylaxis) that are effective at preventing transmission.
In addition, there are effective drugs for people who already have malaria, like quinine. But resistance to these drugs has been increasing in recent years. Further, most of the disease burden is in very poor countries that can’t afford the right medications.
Mosquito nets are one of the most effective prevention strategies. The nets are usually sprayed with insecticide, making them even more useful. Another approach is covering sources of standing water, which are ideal mosquito breeding grounds.
Education is also essential; it’s critical that people understand the risks of malaria and know the best prevention techniques. For a quick, effective solution to any pest control problem, call the pros so you can rest easy.***