Mosquitoes Test Positive for Malaria After Locally-Acquired Cases in Florida and Texas

Mosquitoes Test Positive for Malaria After Locally-Acquired Cases in Florida and Texas
Mosquitoes in a file image. (Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Mosquitoes have tested positive for malaria after the first local spread of the disease in the United States in 20 years.

Three mosquitoes in Florida tested positive for the parasite that causes malaria, Sarasota County Mosquito Management Services told news outlets. The mosquitoes were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing.

The three mosquitoes came from the same wooded area in the country.

Four people have tested positive for malaria in Sarasota County in recent weeks, prompting the Florida Department of Health to issue a statewide alert. All four contracted malaria locally or via local spread, officials said.

Health officials recommended people take precautions such as applying bug spray, avoiding areas that harbor many mosquitoes, and wearing long shirts and pants. People are also being encouraged to drain standing water from around their yards.

Sarasota County and Manatee County officials have been spraying chemicals by plane and truck in various areas to cut down the mosquito population.

“With aircraft, we can treat a bigger area faster and more effectively,” Manatee County Mosquito Control District director Christopher Lesser told the Sarasota County Herald-Tribune.

As soon as officials are notified of a suspected case, people begin to go to the affected area to try to trap mosquitoes to test them, Wade Brennan, the manager for Sarasota County Mosquito Management Services, said in a video released by the county. Spraying also commences.

“We’re taking action immediately. So that’s the same day or the next day, depending on when we get the notice,” Brennan said.

Malaria is an infectious disease that was declared eradicated in the 1950s. While occasional cases are brought into the United States by people who traveled to other countries, the recent cases are the first locally-acquired cases in 20 years.

Florida officials said they’re also monitoring for other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as the West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.

One Texas Case

One case has also been identified in Texas.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, that person lives in Cameron County.

Like the Florida residents, the person had not traveled outside of the country.

Texas officials said they were working with local health officials to determine if there were additional cases.

A Texas Department of State Health told news outlets that all of the mosquitoes tested in the state have tested negative so far.

The last recorded locally-acquired case occurred in Texas in 1994.

National Guard Member

Christopher Shingler, 21, identified himself as the person. He told NBC that he was near the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the National Guard when he became sick in May and was initially diagnosed with a viral infection.

“I would wake up really early in the morning, and I would start shaking,” Shingler said. “It was a lot of just trying my best to make myself eat something, as small as I could, which usually I was unsuccessful, or trying to drink water, which, again, I was unsuccessful.”

Shingler was ultimately discharged from the hospital. The treatment he received was not detailed. According to the CDC, the best treatment for severe malaria is IV artesunate.

The CDC said there was no evidence to indicate the cases in the two states, which are not adjacent, are related. “All patients have received treatment and are improving,” the CDC stated.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 2,000 malaria cases were diagnosed annually in the United States. About 300 of those cases would experience severe disease, and five to 10 people would die. Most of the cases are diagnosed in the summer and fall.

Symptoms include headache, chills, and fever.

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at [email protected]
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