The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released data revealing that 1,925 Americans were diagnosed with malaria in 2011. Five of those Americans died from malaria or complications arising from the disease. According to the CDC this number is the highest seen in the U.S. since the year 1971. That number is also a drastic 14% rise in the number of cases over those seen in 2010.
Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the 2011 malaria cases were acquired outside of the U.S. Nearly 70% of the patients diagnosed with malaria contracted the disease in Africa, mostly in West African nations. On a country-by-country basis more malaria cases originated in India than any other.
“Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “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.”
The CDC recommends that overseas travelers use bed nets, clothing, and insecticide to prevent malaria. It also urges travelers to see a doctor before going overseas to receive whatever medicines and vaccines might be necessary.
“Malaria is preventable,” said Dr. Laurence Slutsker, director of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria at the CDC. “In most cases, these illnesses and deaths could have been avoided by taking recommended precautions. We have made great strides in preventing and controlling malaria around the world. However, malaria persists in many areas and the use of appropriate prevention measures by travelers is still very important.”
Though few Americans die from malaria in any given year, the disease still affects millions of people worldwide. According to the CDC, 660,000 people died of malaria in 2010.