Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | November 5, 2013

40-Year High in Number of Malaria Cases in the US

malaria firedogTo prevent malaria when traveling, take recommended medicines 

Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by a parasite, which causes infected people to experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. And if infected folks allow their symptoms to go untreated, they may develop severe complications and could die. Worldwide, 219 million cases of malaria are estimated to occur each year, resulting in 660,000 deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. Although dogs don’t get Malaria, they can get infected with heart worms through the bite of a mosquito carrying the larvae of the worm. Gross.

The most recent malaria epidemic in the United States was in 2011, when there were 1,925 cases reported, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The highest number of cases since 1971 (more than 40 years ago), this figure represents a 14% increase over the number of reported cases in 2010, when five people in the U.S. died from the disease or associated complications.

Since most of the malaria cases reported in the U.S. were acquired overseas, Americans should use the information as impetus to take recommended medications when traveling. If your doctor advises you to take medication, people—listen! I don’t always agree with my vet’s ideas about suppositories, but we listen because he’s the expert. This is especially important for people traveling to Africa, since more than two-thirds (69%) of the cases were imported in that region, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of the cases acquired in West Africa. India had the second highest number of cases, with seasonal peaks reported in January and August.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said, “Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s. The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.”

Uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. That’s one of the reasons I prefer a cooler clime. One of the ways world health officials are trying to reduce the incidence of malaria by distributing bed nets to help protect people from mosquito bites as they sleep. What’s more, scientists around the world are working to develop a vaccine to prevent malaria.

In most cases, Malaria is preventable and is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. Yuck. In 2010, there were an estimated 660,000 deaths and 219 million cases globally. The signs and symptoms of malaria illness are varied, but the overriding common denominator is fever.

Other common symptoms

  • Headache
  • Back pain
  • Chills
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Enlarged Spleen

Rare (serious) symptoms

  • Impairment of brain function
  • Impairment of spinal cord function
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Loss of consciousness

If left untreated, infections can rapidly spread, inducing coma, kidney failure, respiratory distress and death. Travelers to areas with malaria transmission can prevent the disease by using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets and protective clothing. First- and second-generation immigrants from malaria-endemic countries returning to their “home” countries to visit friends and relatives tend to avoid using appropriate malaria prevention measures and thus are more likely to become infected with malaria than members of the general population. Prevention seems pretty basic—take your meds!

To BE SAFE, consult a health-care provider for information, medications, and vaccines necessary prior to embarking on international travel. The CDC provides advice about malaria prevention recommendations If a traveler experiences symptoms of malaria (such as fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms—while abroad or on returning home—he or she should immediately seek diagnosis and treatment from a health-care provider.

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