Malaria & Mayaro Virus in America

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.

mosquito sucking blood

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.

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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.

mosquito is sucking blood

Mosquito Bites

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.

illustration of a female mosquito

“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.”

Rest Easy Pest Control

Mayaro Virus

According to Science Daily, a new study at the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State, also reveals that two species of Anopheles mosquitoes, Anopheles freeborni and An. quadrimaculatus commonly found in the U.S. regions are capable to carry and transmit Mayaro virus.

The symptoms of Mayaro infection are similar to Dengue and Chikungunya, which can cause fever, joint aches, skin rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In the beginning, the virus is thought to be transmitted by mosquitoes of the Haemagogus species, which are prevalent in rural areas near forests and only feed primarily on birds. However, the researchers found that when the Mayaro virus reaches urban areas, other mosquito species could be vectors of the virus in human populations too.

Researchers said that for now, the cycle of Mayaro virus transmission only affects nonhuman primates and birds, but it’s likely the virus could be spread among human-mosquito-human urban cycle, similar to Chikungunya.

Prevention and Treatment

There’s no vaccine for Malaria, 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.***

Last update November 30, 2018.

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