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MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 2001 Dec 7;50(5):1-20.

Malaria surveillance--United States, 1998.

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Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, USA.



Human malaria is caused by one or more of four species of intraerythrocytic protozoa of the genus Plasmodium (i.e., P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, or P. malariae). The protozoa are transmitted by the bite of an infective female Anopheles species mosquito. The majority of malaria infections in the United States occur among persons who have traveled to areas with endemic transmission. Cases occasionally occur that are acquired through exposure to infected blood products, by congenital transmission, or by local mosquitoborne transmission. Malaria surveillance is conducted to identify episodes of local transmission and to guide prevention recommendations for travelers.


Cases with an onset of symptoms during 1998.


Malaria cases confirmed by blood smear are reported to local and state health departments by health-care providers and laboratory staff members. Case investigations are conducted by local and state health departments, and reports are sent to CDC through the National Malaria Surveillance System (NMSS). This report uses NMSS data.


CDC received reports of 1,227 cases of malaria with onsets of symptoms in 1998, among persons in the United States and its territories. This number represents a decrease of 20.5% from the 1,544 cases reported during 1997. P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale were identified in 42.8%, 37.8%, 3.5%, and 2.1% of cases, respectively. More than one species was present in seven patients (0.6% of total). The infecting species was not determined in 162 (13.2%) cases. Compared with reported cases in 1997, reported malaria cases acquired in Africa increased by 1.3% (n = 706); those acquired in Asia decreased by 52.1% (n = 239); and those acquired in the Americas decreased by 6.5% (n = 229). Of 636 U.S. civilians who acquired malaria abroad, 126 (19.8%) reportedly had followed a chemoprophylactic drug regimen recommended by CDC for the area to which they had traveled. Five persons became infected in the United States. One case was congenitally acquired; one was acquired by blood transfusion; and three were isolated cases that could not be epidemiologically linked to another case. Four deaths were attributed to malaria.


The 20.5% decrease in malaria cases during 1998 compared with 1997 resulted primarily from decreases in P. vivax cases acquired in Asia among non-U.S. civilians. This decrease could have resulted from local changes in disease transmission, decreased immigration from the region, decreased travel to the region, incomplete reporting from state and local health departments, or increased use of effective antimalarial chemoprophylaxis. In a majority of reported cases, U.S. civilians who acquired infection abroad had not taken an appropriate chemoprophylaxis regimen for the country where they acquired malaria. PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIONS TAKEN: Additional information was obtained from state and local health departments and clinics concerning the four fatal cases and the five infections acquired in the United States. Persons traveling to a malarious area should take a recommended chemoprophylaxis regimen and use personal protection measures to prevent mosquito bites. Any person who has been to a malarious area and subsequently develops fever or influenza-like symptoms should seek medical care immediately; the investigation should include a blood smear for malaria. Malaria infections can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Current recommendations concerning prevention and treatment of malaria can be obtained from CDC.

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