Locally acquired (i.e. not travel related) malaria has been reported in Maryland for the first time in 40 years. According to a recent report, the Maryland Department of Health confirmed a positive case of malaria in an individual who denied any exposure via foreign travel or to other US states with known malaria cases. Malaria is a mosquito born disease transmitted by the parasite genus Plasmodium. Malaria is dangerous if left untreated and may be fatal. The majority of cases in the United States are related to foreign travel outside the country. The emergence of locally acquired malaria within the US is highly concerning, especially in a state such as Maryland, where it was nearly unheard of — until recently.
Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health has confirmed and reported a positive case of locally acquired malaria in a Maryland resident who lives in the National Capital Region. The individual was hospitalized and is now recovering. They did not travel recently outside of the United States or to other U.S. states with recent locally acquired malaria cases.
“Malaria was once common in the United States, including in Maryland, but we have not seen a case in Maryland that was not related to travel in over 40 years,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott. “We are taking this very seriously and will work with local and federal health officials to investigate this case.”
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. More than 2,000 cases of malaria are reported annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with most cases occurring in people returning from international travel. Maryland typically reports around 200 travel-related malaria cases each year, and the Maryland Department of Health investigates each case for cause and risk.
Symptoms of malaria usually appear 7 to 30 days after an infective bite and include high fever, chills, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
“Malaria can be very dangerous and even fatal if it is not treated, but early treatment reduces the chances of complications,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “We urge the public to take precautions against mosquito bites, and if you develop symptoms after traveling abroad, seek urgent medical care.”
The risk to the public for locally acquired mosquito-transmitted malaria remains very low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Marylanders can take these precautions to prevent mosquito bites or travel-related malaria:
- Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin.
- If weather and heat allow, wear loose-fitting, long sleeved clothing.
- Keep windows and doors closed or covered with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.
- Empty standing water at least once a week to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.
- Before you travel, learn about the health risks and precautions for malaria and other diseases for your destination.
- If you are planning to travel abroad, check with your health care provider for current recommendations on prescription medications to prevent malaria.
- If you have traveled to an area where malaria transmission occurs more often, and you develop fever, chills, headache, body aches, and fatigue, seek urgent medical care and tell your health care provider that you have traveled.