After West Nile wreaked havoc, malaria too has joined the club. Health officials in Arkansas reported that a man yet to be identified contracted malaria and had no travel history. This means he contracted it inside the country which is rarely the case. This takes the overall count of locally contracted malaria cases to 6.
All the cases reported earlier this year had come from outside the country which was a relief for the health department. With this latest discovery, the hope seems to be short-lived.
Malaria is a disease contracted by mosquitos. A female anopheles mosquito is known to be the major culprit in spreading this disease and is the main carrier of the parasite. Its symptoms include high fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, and headache. Doctors have found these symptoms to be varying in different patients with fever and chills being the common ones. Patients have also reported experiencing severe body pain in their muscles and joints as well.
Unlike West Nile, malaria is completely preventable. You can either go for pre or post-malaria tablets in case you are traveling or have the risk of exposing yourself to such an environment. Usually, it is treated with antibiotics and some painkillers as well. Though it was common in tropical countries, it seemed to have crossed the borders.
What adds to its severity is the fact that when left untreated, it can lead to many fatal consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving malaria untreated is not an option. In case you leave it untreated, it may escalate to malaria, jaundice, kidney failure, seizures, coma, and ultimately death in extreme cases. While in the U.S., the mortality rate is very low, some parts of the world are still fighting it tooth and nail.
When asked why there is a local outbreak of malaria, doctors say that it could be due to the fact that the temperature is unusually hot. Also, another reason could be attributed to the wastelands and empty fields that have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Prof. Naomi Hausser weighs in, “Climate change is altering habitats and where mosquitoes and ticks can live, so there is a risk of spread of diseases we have seen rarely or not at all.”
She continues, “Currently, I do not think the increase in cases of malaria in the United States is due to climate change. The places where cases have been seen have had malaria before, house the right vectors, and have the right climate for the spread of the disease. But climate change is going to change where those vectors can live and for how long they can survive in certain and is something we need to be aware of moving forward.”
Malaria cannot be spread from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids, it can only affect you if the same mosquito has bitten two people. So what does the CDC suggest one does?
CDC has clear guidelines on their website to be followed in case you are infected with malaria. It also gives some pointers for the prevention of the disease. This includes wearing full-sleeved clothes and pants to avoid the bite, cleaning your backyard or covering any open sources of water, using insect repellent, and not exposing yourself to a bit, especially during peak hours. People could also be asymptomatic for days before the parasite starts attacking your immune system.
Officials do assure that there is no cause to panic as the situation is completely under control. However, the rise in cases is a concern as the disease itself isn’t easy to deal with.
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