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Case of locally acquired malaria reported in Maryland

<i>Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto/Getty Images</i><br/>An adult female Anopheles mosquito bites a human body to begin its blood meal at Tehatta
Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto/Getty Images
An adult female Anopheles mosquito bites a human body to begin its blood meal at Tehatta

By Katherine Dillinger, CNN

(CNN) — A case of locally acquired malaria has been confirmed in Maryland, the state Department of Health said Friday. The person was briefly hospitalized and is recovering at home.

The agency declined to give more details about the person except to say they live in the Washington, D.C., area. They did not have a history of recent travel outside the US or to other states where locally acquired malaria has been reported. Eight cases have been reported this summer in Florida and Texas, the first in the US in 20 years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. David Blythe, director of the Maryland Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Outbreak Response Bureau, said at a briefing Friday that the new case involves the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which can cause more severe illness than the strain in the Florida and Texas cases, P. vivax.

Marylanders who have unexplained fever or other malaria symptoms such as muscle aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea should check in with their health care provider, Blythe said.

Malaria spreads through bites from the Anopheles mosquito. Most Americans who catch it do so overseas in areas where the disease is more common, such as in Africa. In the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, about 2,000 cases were reported annually in the US, mostly travel-related, the CDC says. Maryland has about 200 travel-related cases each year.

“We have not seen a case in Maryland that was not related to travel in over 40 years,” Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott said in a news release. “We are taking this very seriously and will work with local and federal health officials to investigate this case.”

The CDC has said the risk of catching malaria in the US remains “extremely low,” and it encourages people to use bug spray to prevent mosquito bites when traveling and at home.

People who are traveling to areas where malaria is common can also take medication to help lower their chances of catching the disease.

“Malaria can be very dangerous and even fatal if it is not treated, but early treatment reduces the chances of complications,” said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Maryland Department of Health’s deputy secretary for public health services, in the news release. “We urge the public to take precautions against mosquito bites, and if you develop symptoms after traveling abroad, seek urgent medical care.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how many locally acquired malaria cases have been reported in Florida and Texas this year.

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