Infectious Disease

Florida, Texas report first locally acquired malaria cases in US since 2003

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Key takeaways:

  • Five locally acquire malaria cases have been reported in the United States, four in Florida and one in Texas.
  • They are the first locally acquired cases of malaria in the United States in 20 years.

The CDC issued a health alert Monday after two states reported the first locally acquired malaria cases in the United States in 20 years.

In the last 2 months, there have been four reported cases of the mosquito-borne disease in Florida and one in Texas. All five patients have since received treatment and are improving, the CDC said.

IDN0623Malaria_Graphic_01_WEB

Data derived from CDC.

Local transmission means that the patients were asking in the US rather than acquiring the disease in another country.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence to suggest that the cases in the two states are related, but active surveillance for additional cases is ongoing and mosquito surveillance and control measures have been implemented in the affected areas.

The risk of acquiring malaria in the US remains “extremely low,” the agency said.

According to the CDC, around 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the US each year, but they are usually connected to people who have traveled to and from countries with endemic malaria transmission, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The five new transmissions are the first locally acquired malaria cases in the US since eight cases were reported in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2003.

“Malaria is a medical emergency and should be treated accordingly,” the CDC wrote in a Health Alert Network Health Advisory. “Patients suspected of having malaria should be urgently evaluated in a facility that is able to provide rapid diagnosis and treatment, within 24 hours of presentation.”

IV artesunate has been the first-line treatment for severe malaria in the US since 2019 — before it was even approved by the FDA in 2020 — and is the only drug available to in the US to treat the disease. A study published in 2021 in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that it was safe and effective in treating severe malaria in US adults.

The CDC recommends that hospitals either stock IV artesunate or have a plan to get it in an emergency. The CDC set up a website with information on how to acquire the medication.

There have been recent advancements in malaria prevention, including the rollout of the first ever WHO-recommended malaria vaccine and promising findings from another malaria vaccine that had an efficacy of more than 75% in a phase 2b trial.

References:

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