Maryland authorities on Aug. 19 disclosed a new case of locally acquired malaria, making the state the third in the country to report a case in recent months.
The person tested positive for malaria despite not recently traveling outside the United States or to a state that has reported malaria cases, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
The person was hospitalized and “is now recovering,” officials said in a statement. The person lives in Maryland.
The agency did not disclose the age or sex of the person and did not disclose more specific details on where they live.
“To protect patient confidentiality, we are not sharing any further patient information,” a Maryland Department of Health spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email.
The agency is also declining to say whether there are any suspected additional cases. “That is the only confirmed case,” the spokesperson said.
Texas and Florida have recently reported locally acquired malaria cases, which differ from cases in which people contract malaria while traveling overseas.
Before the new cases, no locally acquired cases had been detected in the United States since 2003. In Maryland, the case is the first of its kind in decades.
“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,” Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott said in a statement. “We are taking this very seriously and will work with local and federal health officials to investigate this case.”
Over 2,000 cases of malaria are reported in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 200 of those are in Maryland.
Malaria is often caused when people are bitten by mosquitoes that have been infected by certain kinds of parasites.
Malaria can also spread through procedures such as organ transplants because the parasite, once introduced into a person, is found in their red blood cells.
Symptoms usually start seven to 30 days after becoming infected. Symptoms include fever, sweating, chills, headache, and nausea.
Testing can confirm a malaria case.
No malaria vaccine is available, but some drugs are aimed at preventing infection. Other drugs help treat malaria once it is contracted.
If left untreated, malaria is more likely to cause ongoing problems, and even death. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world with malaria die each year.
In addition to antimalarial drugs, people can increase their chances to avoid malaria by wearing insect repellent, donning long-sleeved clothing, and keeping windows and doors closed.
Officials also recommend removing standing water in yards at least once a week, which will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
“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.”
Earlier in 2023, cases cropped up in both Texas and Florida.
The Texas resident who tested positive lives in Cameron County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The case was the first locally acquired one in the state since 1994.
In Florida, all six of the cases were detected in Sarasota County, about halfway between Tampa and Fort Meyers.
All of the patients have since recovered, officials said.
There were no signs that the cases in the two states were related, according to the CDC.
The most recent locally acquired cases, prior to the latest batch, were detected in Palm Beach County, Florida in 2003.
“The key remains early detection and treatment of imported human cases to minimize the risk of onward transmission,” the CDC said.
The CDC, meanwhile, has said that there was a possibility the number of imported malaria cases would rise over the summer, in part because more people were traveling internationally than in recent years.