The Maryland Department of Health has identified a locally acquired case of malaria in a resident of the National Capital Region. This marks the first non-travel-related case in Maryland in over four decades. The individual affected has been hospitalized and is currently recovering.
“Malaria was once common in the United States, including in Maryland, but we have not seen a case in Maryland that was unrelated to travel in over 40 years,” stated Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott. “We are taking this very seriously and will work with local and federal health officials to investigate this case.”
Malaria, caused by a mosquito-borne parasite, typically reports more than 2,000 cases yearly in the U.S., with the majority related to international travel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Maryland alone, the health department investigates around 200 travel-related malaria cases annually.
The recent diagnosis has increased awareness of the disease and its symptoms, which can manifest 7 to 30 days after an infective bite. The symptoms include high fever, chills, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Early treatment is crucial to prevent possible fatalities or complications.
“Malaria can be very dangerous and even fatal if it is not treated, but early treatment reduces the chances of complications,” warned Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “We urge the public to take precautions against mosquito bites, and if you develop symptoms after traveling abroad, seek urgent medical care.”
Despite this isolated case, the CDC maintains that the risk for locally acquired malaria remains very low in the United States. Nevertheless, the Maryland Department of Health has issued recommendations to residents for mosquito bite prevention, travel-related malaria precautions, and general safety measures. The guidelines include using insect repellent containing DEET, wearing loose-fitting clothing, keeping windows and doors covered with screens, emptying standing water weekly, and seeking medical care if symptoms develop after travel to areas known for malaria transmission.
For those planning to travel abroad, it is advised to consult with healthcare providers regarding current recommendations on prescription medications for malaria prevention.
The confirmed case of locally acquired malaria has brought attention to a once more prevalent disease in the United States. With cooperation between state and federal health officials, efforts are underway to understand this particular case and its origins.