I travel to many malaria endemic countries and to be completely honest I do not take my malaria medicine as I should. They tend to make me ill, so I just roll the dice and hope for the best. That might not be the smartest thing to do, especially knowing that there has been a marked increase in the number of malaria cases reported in the United States due to increased international travel. In fact, the number of malaria cases in the United States is the highest in forty years.
The CDC says that in 2011 1,925 malaria cases were reported in the United States. That is the highest number since 1971. The number is also 48% higher than 2008. The CDC says that only about half of international travelers routinely take their antimalarials. I am keenly in the other half of those travelers. I do take precautions, however, by using a bed net (even though many I’ve slept under have holes) and I try not to go out at night or I wear long sleeves and pants.
“The CDC provides actual maps and very good recommendations for travelers,” said Kristin Michel, an associate professor of biology at Kansas State University who studies the Anopheles gambiae s.s. mosquitoes, the species most responsible for malaria transmission in Africa. “Anybody who travels outside of the U.S. into potentially endemic area needs to consult the CDC website and/or their physician and ensure that they have the right prophylaxis.”
All it takes is one bite and I could contract malaria. I know. Although malaria cases are decreasing in malaria endemic countries like Zambia and Tanzania where children under the age of five are most vulnerable, the number of Americans who are coming home with malaria, as aforementioned, is increasing. Five people died in the United States from malaria in 2011. Two-thirds of the malaria cases were imported from Africa.
“The CDC provides actual maps and very good recommendations for travelers,” said Michel. “Anybody who travels outside of the U.S. into potentially endemic area needs to consult the CDC website and/or their physician and ensure that they have the right prophylaxis.”