Serious, even fatal cases of malaria may be striking the United States more often than previously reported, a new study has warned.
Sickening thousands and leading to millions of dollars in costs, most of these malaria bouts appeared in immigrants making holiday visits to their home countries without taking the necessary precautions, the report added.
Back With A Vengeance
Malaria transmission in the country was eliminated in the early 1950s, mainly through techniques such as insecticide use, drainage ditches, as well as window screens. But the mosquito-borne disease continues to affect Americans traveling to places where it continues to be prevalent, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
They then bring it home when they fly back to the United States.
“They just think they’re going home, so they don’t have to prepare for anything,” said lead author and UCLA epidemiologist Diana Khuu in a New York Times report.
From 2000 to 2014, around 22,000 individuals were admitted to U.S. hospitals with their malaria complications, according to the review of federal government records. These malaria patients are typically men from ages 20 to 50 and came from Africa or the Caribbean, Khuu shared.
Among the hospitalized females, however, 14 percent or an unusually high number were pregnant. This poses deadly risks to both mother and fetus since pregnancy reduces one’s immune defenses.
The team suspected that many of these patients were raised in malaria-infested areas, became immune in childhood, and hardly realized that their immunity from that phase had already disappeared after their years of U.S. stay.
Malaria Numbers In The US And Worldwide
Around the world, malaria fatalities already dropped around 60 percent since 2000. The condition, however, still kills around 429,000 a year, mostly children under the age of 5 living in Africa.
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that there are up to 2,000 malaria cases every year in the United States, while the study pegged it at 2,100 at the minimum.
Cities in the East Coast have the highest number of cases, mostly from people immigrating from Africa and the Caribbean. While nations of origin were not logged, data from the CDC reflected that many traveling to India contract malaria while visiting their home country.
Of the hospitalized, more than 50 percent were black, followed by whites and Asians as the largest ethnic groups. Malaria cases also peaked every August and January, linking the incidents to summer as well as Christmas season visits.
Epidemiology professor and pediatrician Dr. William Moss believed that malaria remains a health issue locally, given the disease’s status as a major global concern and people’s constant movement from the United States to endemic areas, and vice versa.
And as long as hundreds of millions of malaria cases worldwide remain, the infectious disease will keep bringing Americans to emergency rooms. The problem, Moss warned, is that many hospitals, especially in rural locations, may not be properly equipped to diagnose the condition and may not readily suspect malaria.
The findings were discussed in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.