Malaria cases reach 40-year high in U.S.

The number of malaria cases reported in the U.S. in 2011 was the largest since 1971, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC held a webinar last week on information and guidance for clinicians related to the increase in U.S. malaria cases. There were 1,925 reported cases of malaria in the U.S. with an onset of symptoms in the U.S. in 2011, which represented a 14 percent increase from 2010 and a 48 percent increase from 2008. The majority of the infections occurred among persons who traveled to regions with ongoing malaria infection.

The CDC said that imported malaria can reintroduce malaria into regions where the disease is not endemic if environmental conditions are present to support the lifecycle of the malaria parasite.

Mateusz Plucinski, the epidemic intelligence service officer for the malaria branch of the CDC's Center for Global Health, spoke during the malaria-based clinical outreach and communication activity. Plucinski described malaria prevention strategies meant to reduce the risk of malaria in travelers, discussed the diagnosis of malaria in patients and explained the treatment options for confirmed malaria cases.

Symptoms of malaria include chills, fever, sweats, muscle paints, headache, nausea and vomiting. Severe malaria can cause severe anemia, neurologic focal signs, confusion, coma and respiratory difficulty.