(RxWiki News) Thankfully, malaria has been largely eliminated in the U.S. But there is still plenty of progress to be made abroad, a fact that health officials around the world are highlighting.
World Malaria Day is being recognized worldwide on April 25.
Health officials are calling for continued global awareness and funding to help battle the disease.
"Talk to your doctor about how to stay safe and healthy while traveling."
Malaria, which mainly exists in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, is spread by mosquitos to humans and often causes flu-like symptoms, like fever and chills. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in some cases, more serious issues like kidney failure, seizures, coma and death can occur.
After a bite from an infected mosquito, symptoms usually take between seven and 30 days to develop.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that an estimated 627,000 people around the world die each year from malaria — many of whom are children in sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 5 years old. It is estimated that over 200 million cases of malaria occur around the globe each year.
Despite these still large numbers, progress has been made in the fight against malaria.
"Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 42 percent globally and 49 percent in Africa," reported WHO. "Increased political commitment and expanded funding have helped to reduce malaria incidence by 25 percent globally, and 31 percent in Africa."
WHO highlighted the importance of sustained funding and efforts to continue the progress made. The hope is that these efforts will further reduce the number of malaria cases and deaths that occur each year.
In the US, malaria cases are almost always discovered in recent travelers. CDC reported that between 1,500 and 2,000 cases are reported each year in the US.
CDC recommended that US travelers take steps to protect themselves from malaria while abroad, including being informed about the risk of malaria in each location they travel to, using prevention methods like medication and bed nets when necessary and being informed about the signs and symptoms of the disease.
"Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after returning home (for up to 1 year) should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician their travel history," CDC recommended.