CDC: Malaria cases in US at 40-year high

There were 1,925 cases of malaria reported in the United States in 2011, and five people died of malaria or associated complications.

This is the highest number of cases reported in a year since 1971 and is a 14% increase since 2010, according to a CDC report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Malaria isn’t something that many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.”

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH 

Thomas Frieden

Nearly all of the malaria cases reported in the United States were acquired from overseas, with 69% from Africa. Among the cases from Africa, 63% were acquired in West Africa. As for individual countries, most cases were from India. There were seasonal peaks of disease in January and in August.

According to the report, Plasmodium falciparum (49%), P. vivax(22%), P. malariae(3%) and P. ovale (3%) cases were identified.

Travelers to areas with malaria transmission are encouraged to use antimalarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets and protective clothing. The CDC also encourages travelers to consult their health care providers before travel to receive necessary information, medications and vaccines.

“Malaria is preventable,” Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, said in the press release. “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 provides advice on malaria prevention recommendations and treatment recommendations online at Clinicians can also consult the Malaria Hotline, toll free, at 855-856-4713.