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CDC: Malaria Cases Reach 40-Year High in United States

Majority of cases acquired overseas, sometimes despite chemoprophylactic drugs

FRIDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- 2011 marked the highest number of malaria cases diagnosed in the United States, according to a surveillance summary published Nov. 1 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Karen A. Cullen, Ph.D., and Paul M. Arguin, M.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, analyzed data from the National Malaria Surveillance System, National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, or direct CDC consults to evaluate 2011 cases of malaria as well as trends in previous years.

The researchers found that in 2011 there were 1,925 reported cases of malaria reported in the United States, a 14 percent increase from cases reported for 2010 and the largest number of reported cases since 1971. The majority of 2011 cases (1,920) were classified as imported, along with one laboratory-acquired case, one transfusion-related case, two congenital cases, and one cryptic case. Infections were identified as Plasmodium falciparum (49 percent), P. vivax (22 percent), P. malariae (3 percent), and P. ovale (3 percent), with 1 percent of patients reporting infections by two species and no infecting species reported in 23 percent of cases. Fifty-seven of 929 cases reported adhering to a chemoprophylactic drug regimen during travels. Significantly more cases were reported as severe, with five deaths from malaria seen in 2011.

"Malaria isn't something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s," Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, said in a statement. "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."

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