A Maryland resident has tested positive for the first case of a locally acquired strain of malaria in more than 40 years, officials confirmed Friday.
The unnamed individual, who was hospitalized and is now recovering, has not recently traveled out of the country or to other states with recent cases of locally acquired malaria, the Maryland Department of Health said in a statement.
“Malaria was once common in the United States, including Maryland, but we haven’t seen a case in Maryland that wasn’t travel-related in over 40 years,” the department’s secretary said. of Maryland Health, Laura Herrera Scott, in the release. “We take this very seriously and will work with local and federal health authorities to investigate this matter.”
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often have fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. Without treatment, they can develop serious complications and die.
Symptoms typically appear seven to 30 days after an infectious bite and include high fever, chills, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting, Maryland Health Department officials said.
About 2,000 cases of malaria are reported each year nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the “vast majority” of cases in the country occur in people traveling abroad, the CDC noted. The risk of locally acquired malaria is “extremely low” in the United States, according to the agency.
How to protect yourself from malaria
Maryland Department of Health officials recommend these steps to protect yourself from malaria:
- Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin.
- Whenever possible, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing.
- Keep windows and doors closed or covered with screens.
- Drain standing water at least once a week to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches and patios.
- Before you travel, find out about the health risks and precautions to take regarding malaria and other illnesses for your destination.
- Before traveling abroad, ask your health care provider for current recommendations on prescription drugs to prevent malaria.
- If you have traveled to an area where malaria transmission occurs more often and you develop symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body aches, and fatigue, seek emergency medical attention and tell your health care provider that you have travelled.