Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transferred to humans and various other animals by mosquitoes. People with malaria usually become very ill, with shaking chills, high fever and other flu-like symptoms. Malaria can be fatal if not treated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2015, there were approximately 212 million malaria cases around the world, and 429,000 of those were fatal. In the U.S., as many as 1,500 cases are diagnosed every year, mostly among those who have emigrated from or traveled to a highly infected region such as South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. However, in the summer of 2023, several malaria cases were reported in the U.S. that couldn't be traced to sources outside of it. In other words, the people infected had not recently been outside the country.
How Does Malaria Spread?
Malaria spreads when a person is bitten by a mosquito that carries the virus. To be more specific, when the mosquito feeds on a person who is infected, and then feeds on someone else, they can transfer the infection to that second person.
Three mosquito species are considered North America's dominant malaria vectors, each being most prevalent in a different area: Anopheles quadrimaculatus in eastern North America, An. Freeborni in the western region and An. Pseudopunctipennis around the U.S./Mexico border. These species are still present in these areas, so despite public health and economic advances in malaria prevention and treatment over the years, there is always a risk that malaria rates could rise within the U.S. Malaria is primarily transmitted in tropical and subtropical regions, though during warmer months, that area can be expanded. As temperatures around the globe rise and shift due to climate change, mosquito-borne illnesses of all kinds are likely to become a greater risk even in places they weren't traditionally seen before.
What Are the Symptoms of Malaria?
Malaria symptoms can include chills, fever, headaches, sweating, body aches, nausea, vomiting and general malaise. In countries where malaria is less common, these symptoms might be mistaken for being a cold or flu. However, if left untreated, malaria can be fatal. More serious symptoms include anemia, low blood pressure, kidney failure, seizures and other neurological conditions. If you find yourself experiencing flu-like symptoms after getting a mosquito bite, seek medical attention. Bear in mind that, for most people, symptoms take seven to 10 days to appear after receiving the infecting bite, according to the CDC. However, the CDC also notes that symptoms can take up to a year to show up in some people.
Can you Protect Yourself Against Malaria?
As with all mosquito-borne illnesses, preventative measures against malaria include staying indoors, wearing long-sleeved, protective clothing and putting on an insect repellent that is formulated to keep mosquitoes away. But are there other ways to protect yourself from potentially harmful mosquito bites? Yes! You can hire a reputable company to treat your residence or commercial property and rid yourself of mosquitoes completely.
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