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Florida Issues Emergency Malaria Alert Statewide

Four people in Sarasota have fallen ill with malaria, and the Florida Department of Health has issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness alert, the department said this week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also has issued an alert after the Florida cases, and one case in Texas, are the first instances of locally transmitted malaria in the U.S. since 2003.

The four people in Sarasota who were ill after being bitten by infectious mosquitoes have all recovered. All four patients were infected with P. vivax malaria. According to state health officials, it is less fatal than other species.

Malaria symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fever and chills. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical help within 24 hours of symptoms, the state advised.

The health department is urging all residents across the state to take precautions while outdoors by using bug spray, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and wearing long pants and shirts whenever possible, especially at sunrise and evening when mosquitoes are most active.

Malaria can only be spread by mosquitoes, not other people. Generally when new cases are reported in the U.S., they are in people who have traveled outside the country. But these five cases were locally transmitted.

To limit the risk of transmission, the health departments in Sarasota and Manatee counties will continue working with local partners and county mosquito control to conduct aerial and ground spraying.

The CDC issued an alert after one malaria case also was confirmed in Cameron County, Texas, which includes the city of Brownsville near the Mexican border. There is no evidence to suggest the cases in the two states are related, the CDC said.

The U.S. has not seen locally transmitted malaria cases since an outbreak in Palm Beach County in 2003, when there were eight cases.

In addition, the state health department offers these tips on how to prevent mosquito bites:

Drain standing water

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots, or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has been collected.
  • Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and keep them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover your skin

  • Clothing – Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Repellent – Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
  • Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanoate, and IR3535 are effective.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
  • Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.
  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

Tips on mosquito repellent

  • Always read the label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
  • To protect children, read the label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. Mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended for children younger than two months old.
  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
  • Apply insect repellent that contains DEET (10–30%), picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanone, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing. Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Do not apply permethrin directly to the skin. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions.

  • chasbo says:

    are illegals bringing their pet malaria transmitting mosquitos with them?

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