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Local doctor urges Floridians to be proactive after reported malaria cases

By Jade Jarvis

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    WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (WPBF) — The Florida Department of Health has issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after four new cases of malaria were confirmed in Sarasota County.

This is the first time in 20 years that there’s been local spread of the illness in the United States.

The last time there was a malaria outbreak in the U.S. was in 2003 in Palm Beach County, where eight cases were reported.

Now, FDOH is urging people to be aware and take precautions to reduce the spread of disease from mosquitoes.

The agency issued a statewide advisory on Monday about the cases saying that the four people in Florida infected were treated and have already recovered.

“What these mosquitoes will do is once they come in contact with someone who has malaria, they take up the parasite. And then, when they go to another person to suck up some blood, they can then introduce that parasite into the next individual. So, we live in an environment that can foster that kind of situation,” said Dr. Olayemi Osiyemi, the section chief of infectious disease at Good Samaritan Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Osiyemi said the local cases are worrisome, but it’s important to be proactive and not panic.

“Look in your backyard. Don’t have an old tire hanging out there or garbage can or something that can retain water. Get rid of those things. You know, use Off! or some insect repellent on your skin,” Osiyemi said.

FDOH is working with local and county partners to spray affected areas in Sarasota County to help mitigate the risk of further transmission. Still, it’s important to look out for the signs of infection regardless.

“If you know you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and you have a headache and a fever especially if they’re cyclic, go see your doctor right away,” Osiyemi said.

Other symptoms of malaria include muscle pain, fatigue, and nausea, but Osiyemi said you don’t want to wait for those to show up before you seek care.

Also, despite these concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses that the risk of catching malaria in the U.S. is extremely low — so don’t panic, just take precautions.

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