40-Year Surge in US Malaria Cases

Malaria cases in the US are the highest in 40 years but most cases came from overseas

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Although it may be well-managed in the US, malaria should still be a concern for Americans traveling internationally. Malaria is an infectious disease that occurs after a person has been bitten by an infected mosquito.

A recent report found the highest number of malaria cases in the United States in more than 40 years. Virtually all of these cases of malaria were contracted outside of the US, specifically in West Africa.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), malaria can be prevented with appropriate medication and by taking other preventive measures such as using insect repellant.

"Protect yourself from mosquito bites."

According to the CDC report, there were 1,925 cases of malaria reported in the United States in 2011. This represents a 14 percent increase since 2010 and is the highest number of malaria cases reported in the US since 1971.

While malaria is well controlled in the US, it still remains a major problem in other areas of the world like West Africa. In 2010, there were 219 million cases of malaria globally and 660,000 deaths.

The symptoms of malaria may vary from person to person but can include fever, headache, back pain, chills, increased sweating, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cough. If left untreated, malaria can disrupt the blood supply to key organs, lead to kidney failure, respiratory distress and death.

Malaria is a preventable disease. CDC urges American travelers visiting regions where malaria is common to take preventive measures. These measures may include the following:

  • Using antimalarial medications prescribed by a physician
  • Using insect repellent
  • Sleeping in insecticide-treated bed nets
  • Wearing protective clothing (e.g., long-sleeved tops and pants)

Young children, pregnant women and travelers coming from regions where malaria is not common, like the US, are at the highest risk for contracting malaria.

According to CDC, if a traveler has symptoms of malaria, such as a fever, headaches or other flu-like symptoms while abroad or when returning home, he or she should immediately seek diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare provider.

This report was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Review Date: 
October 31, 2013
Last Updated:
November 1, 2013