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The number of malaria cases in the US has reached a 40-year high, with 1,925 cases reported in 2011 - the highest number since 1971. This is according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC researchers found that almost all of the malaria cases reported were acquired overseas, highlighting the importance of ensuring the recommended medicines are taken to protect against malaria when traveling.
Malaria is a blood disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans by the Anopheles mosquito. According to the CDC, 2010 saw an estimated 660,000 deaths worldwide as a result of the disease, and there were 219 million malaria cases globally.
It is a life-threatening disease, but the seriousness of the infection can be reduced if diagnosed and treated in its early stages, and it can be prevented altogether with the use of antimalarial medications, among other precautions.
To determine the number of malaria cases reported, the CDC gathered data from the National Malaria Surveillance System (NMSS) and the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).
The report found that 1,925 malaria cases were reported in 2011, representing a 14% increase from 2010.
Of these, 1,920 cases were contracted overseas. Although information on the region of acquisition was missing for 14% of these malaria cases, it was found that 69% were imported from Africa, with 63% of these acquired from West Africa.
The report also revealed an increase in the number of cases that were acquired in South Asia, from 263 in 2010 to 326 in 2011. The majority of these cases were acquired in India.
Tom Frieden, director at the CDC, notes that the increase in malaria cases shows that Americans "remain vulnerable" and must be vigilant against diseases such as malaria, as the world is greatly interconnected by travel.
Laurence Slutsker, director of the Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria at the CDC, says most of these cases could have been avoided if people adopted the correct prevention measures:
"Malaria is preventable. In most cases, these illnesses and deaths could have been avoided by taking recommended precautions.
We have made great strides in preventing and controlling malaria around the world. However, malaria persists in many areas and the use of appropriate prevention measures by travelers is still very important."
The CDC says that malaria can be prevented with the use of insect repellant, insecticide-treated bed nets, protective clothing and antimalarial drugs.
However, the organization notes that a combination of these preventive measures is best, as no antimalarial drug is 100% effective.
Travelers in the US should speak to a health care provider before international travel, the CDC recommends, in order to receive information regarding malaria risk, medications and vaccines.
Furthermore, the CDC emphasizes that if a traveler does show symptoms of malaria - such as headaches, fever and other flu-like symptoms - when abroad or upon return, diagnosis and treatment from a health care provider should be sought immediately.
Medical News Today recently reported on a study detailing the discovery of a molecular switch in female mosquitos that may lead to reduced spread of the disease.
Written by Honor Whiteman
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Malaria Surveillance, United States, 2011, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 1 November 2013.
Visit our Tropical Diseases category page for the latest news on this subject.
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