Malaria back in Florida and Texas

Seven cases of Malaria, America's first in decades, are reported in Florida and Texas. Officials in Sarasota County, Florida, and the Texas Department of Health confirm the transmission happened locally. The Centers for Disease Control has issued a nationwide alert for the disease.

Recommendations for the Public

– Take steps to prevent mosquito bites and control mosquitos at home to protect yourself from any mosquito-borne illness.
– Before you travel, learn about the health risks and precautions for malaria and other diseases for your destination.
– If you are traveling internationally to an area where malaria occurs, talk to your healthcare provider about medicines to prevent you from getting malaria.
– If you have traveled to an area where malaria occurs and develop fever, chills, headache, body aches, and fatigue, seek medical care and tell your healthcare provider that you have traveled.

Malaria was eradicated in the U.S. with DDT, which is excellent at controlling mosquitos, but has serious drawbacks that led to its ban for other uses. If things get bad, a better long-term bet than mass-spraying might be ramping up genetic manipulation of mosquitos to make them harmless to humans. But people talk about this sort of thing because public health in America is in bad shape and even bringing up the influence of climate change on malaria's spread will make it harder for officials or politicians in Florida and Texas to take action.

It's not yet clear whether any changes in mosquito populations or in human behavior are the reason for this current spate of locally acquired cases. But public health investigations in both states have already identified risk factors for the people who've been infected — and environmental reservoirs of the infection.

In an interview on June 23,Michael Drennon, a Sarasota County health department epidemiologist, couldn't share demographic or location information about the two locally infected people who had been identified at that time. However, he noted both were adults who spend a significant amount of time outside at night, and they hadn't traveled anywhere outside the US.

The Texas case occurred in a southern Texas county that borders Mexico and the person been identified as a National Guardsman who was working on a border security assignment shortly before his symptoms started. Although vivax malaria is present in parts of Mexico, the infection is not typically found in the northern part of the country that abuts Texas.