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Why there's no malaria in the United States

How is there malaria in South America and Africa, but not in the United States? Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, usually in more rural areas. While there's currently no approved malaria vaccine in the U.S., there are vaccines in use and in development elsewhere in the world, and effective preventive medicines for malaria are available. Now almost every malaria case in the United States is from a traveler returning home.

The United States used to suffer from malaria endemics up until the 1950s. The Office of Malaria Control in War Areas (now the CDC) improved sanitation, medical care, technology, and encouraged widespread insecticide use. The malaria parasite was eliminated via these methods, but the Anopheles mosquitoes are still present in the United States.

The Anopheles mosquitoes still live on the eastern half of the United States. However, Florida is most vulnerable to potential malaria outbreaks because of the large number of international travel ports, highly populated areas, and established Anopheles mosquito populations. When a lot of travelers come in and out of Florida, the risk of malaria is increased. When mosquitoes feed on someone with malaria, they contract the malaria parasite. These mosquitoes can then transfer that parasite to other people they bite.

There is a mosquito surveillance database called MosquitoNET that the CDC stores data on to report on Anopheles mosquitoes. Not every state and county is required to report to the database, so the data is hard to compare.

Travelers can stay safe from malaria by wearing long clothing, treating their clothes with permethrin spray, and using insect repellent regularly. Antimalarial medication can also be taken for high risk areas. It is inexpensive and effective at preventing malaria. Young children can also take antimalarial medication, and the dose is based off their weight. Preventing malaria while pregnant is especially important because the malaria parasite can be transmitted from mother to child.

Make an appointment at any of the Away Clinic Arizona locations to receive pre-travel health advice, travel immunizations, and learn more about how to stay healthy during travel. Get protected and safe travels!


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