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Malaria Confirmed in Florida and Texas—Should We All Be Worried?

A tropical disease doc on if we're all at risk of the deadly disease after the CDC confirmed locally-acquired cases.

For the first time in 20 years, malaria has been contracted in the U.S.: Five cases of locally-acquired malaria have been reported in Florida (four patients) and Texas (one patient) in the last two months, according to a recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Considering the disease can be deadly and this summer's rain and heat is bringing more mosquitoes out than ever—should we be worried?

How Did This Happen?

Well, for starters, we always have malaria-carrying mosquitoes (Anopheles mosquitoes) in the U.S.—we just don't have an abundance of malaria itself for the species to spread it, explains tropical disease expert Michael Zimring, M.D., director of The Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

In all likelihood, the recent locally-acquired cases mean someone went to a high-risk location like Africa or South America, contracted the parasite, came back to the States, and then got bit by a healthy Anopheles mosquito who went on to transfer it to these five people in Florida and Texas, Dr. Zimring explains.

Are We At Risk?

The risk of you catching malaria, even if you're in Florida or Texas, is extremely low, says both Dr. Zimring as well as the CDC.

"There isn't enough of a reservoir of infected mosquitoes here for this to become widespread at this moment," Dr. Zimring reassures.

However, as temperatures increase year after year alongside more rain and floods, mosquitoes will become a bigger and bigger problem—and potentially malaria-infected mosquitoes, too, he adds.

While malaria can be deadly, we at least have preventative medicine as well as very effective treatments for it.

Learn more and read the complete article written by Rachel Schultz here.

LAST UPDATED

September 27, 2023

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Rachel Schultz

Editorial Director

Rachael Schultz is the Editorial Director of Wide Open Spaces. She has over a decade of experience writing and editing for Men's Journal, Shape, Insider Reviews, Gear Patrol, Forbes Vetted, Travel + Leisure, and other national publications.

Raised a city person, Rachael moved to a small mountain town outside Aspen, Colorado, by herself and on a whim, in 2017 and dove head first into learning how to be outdoorsy as an adult. With the help of friends and the internet, she built out her Honda Element and van-lifed around the country for six months, spent 21 days rafting the Grand Canyon, and finally—finally—understands how to ski powder and how to hold on tight to a mountain bike catapulting downhill.

She feels most passionate about helping others feel empowered and equipped to experience new adventures at any age, and reminding everyone it's okay to be slow outdoors.

Most days, you can find her happiest ripping groomers, sitting by the river with a good book, or snuggling her dog, Crocodile.

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