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Latin America’s Malaria Outbreak: What About The U.S.?

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Latin America's Malaria Outbreak: What About The U.S.?

(CTN News) – Symptoms of malaria include high fever, shaking chills, and nasty flu-like symptoms. It can sometimes be fatal, but there are various treatments available.

The disease is spread by parasites that can live in mosquitoes, so if a mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected individual, it can pass the parasite on.

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted treatments, prevention, and funding, malaria is a serious problem outside of the United States. Since the temperature allows year-round transmission, it’s a perennial problem in much of Africa.

As a result of the flooding in Pakistan, there was a surge. In Latin America, the uptick has been linked to a die-off of amphibians, which means fewer animals are eating mosquito larvae, which means more mosquitoes hatch and spread malaria.

In the 1980s, a fungus that causes chytridiomycosis in amphibians spread throughout the region. Because some amphibians absorb water through their skin rather than drinking it, this disease causes thickening of the skin.

Over 200 species have been wiped out by this disease worldwide. Inadvertently spread by humans, it can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

There is evidence of this in the U.S., especially on the East Coast, but it only began to affect U.S. levels in the 1990s, 10 years after amphibian die-offs began in Latin America.

Since 1951, transmission has been eliminated in the U.S. By spraying insecticides, improving drainage, and eliminating mosquito breeding sites, transmission has been eliminated. People who immigrated from those areas or traveled to places where the disease was present tend to be the most at risk for contracting in the U.S.

Through its Malaria Surveillance System, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) collects malaria case reports and works to prevent and treat the disease within the country.

In addition to insecticide-treated mosquito nets, the CDC recommends treating pregnant women, treating infants, and spraying interiors with insecticides to prevent malaria.

Currently, these are not needed in the U.S., but they would be used if reemerged. As the largest government donor to efforts worldwide, the U.S. devotes many resources toward preventing this.

Malaria can also be combated in the future. Despite recent developments like amphibian extinction, scientists continue to develop solutions to the disease. The number of anti-programs in Africa is on the rise, so immigrants and travelers will be less likely to spread  across the globe.

In addition, scientists have engineered mosquitoes that are less hospitable to parasites, thereby reducing the spread of the disease. There is not currently a vaccine for malaria, but researchers in England are working on one and may have it approved by 2023.

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