Florida Issues Malaria Alert as Locally Acquired Cases Emerge for the First Time in Two Decades

Florida has issued a malaria alert in multiple counties after the discovery of two additional cases of the mosquito-borne disease. This marks the first time in two decades that locally acquired cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the Florida Department of Health, for the week ending on July 1, two more cases of locally acquired malaria were reported in Sarasota County. Currently, there are a total of six cases in the state, all confined to Sarasota County. The Florida Department of Health has issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory for Orange, Polk, and Walton counties, along with a mosquito-borne illness alert for Manatee, Miami-Dade, and Sarasota counties.

In addition to Florida, Texas has also reported a case of locally acquired malaria. The Texas Department of State Health Services remains vigilant for any further cases, although only one has been confirmed so far, as reported by CNN.

These recent cases are the first instances of locally acquired malaria in the United States in the past two decades, as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is collaborating with two state health departments to investigate these cases of locally transmitted mosquito-borne Plasmodium vivax malaria. There is currently no evidence to suggest a connection between the cases in Florida and Texas.

In the United States, there are approximately 2,000 cases of malaria diagnosed each year. However, the majority of these cases involve Americans or immigrants returning from countries where malaria is prevalent. Severe malaria affects around 300 Americans annually, and up to 10 deaths occur in the United States due to this mosquito-borne disease.

Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease transmitted to humans by certain types of mosquitoes, primarily in tropical regions. It is both preventable and curable. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever, sweating, and chills.

The World Health Organization notes:

Malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Blood transfusion and contaminated needles may also transmit malaria. The first symptoms may be mild, similar to many febrile illnesses, and difficulty to recognize as malaria. Left untreated, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness and death within 24 hours.

On July 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the rollout of the first malaria vaccine in Africa. Twelve countries across the continent will receive a total of 18 million doses over the next two years. This milestone marks a significant advancement in combating one of the leading causes of death in Africa. The vaccine, known as RTS, S/AS01, has already been administered to over 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019, demonstrating safety and effectiveness in reducing severe malaria and child mortality. Approximately 28 African countries have expressed interest in receiving the malaria vaccine.

The WHO estimates that the global demand for malaria vaccines will reach 40-60 million doses by 2026, increasing to 80-100 million doses annually by 2030. To meet this demand, Gavi, a public-private partnership focused on vaccination, is collaborating with various stakeholders, including governments, organizations, and the vaccine industry, to provide immunization against deadly diseases for children worldwide.

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