University of Nebraska Medical Center

As Sarasota’s malaria case count increases, we talked with researchers about what’s next

Herald Tribune

Sarasota County’s outbreak of locally acquired malaria is two cases away from matching the total reported in the last outbreak of the insect-borne disease in the U.S.

In 2003, eight cases of malaria were confirmed in Palm Beach County, with seven of those coming in the months of July and August. Sarasota County’s total was at six as of Monday afternoon.

Malaria researchers who spoke with the Herald-Tribune said they don’t know what’s next for Sarasota’s outbreak, but some said they doubted it will become a large-scale outbreak.

The latest two cases were reported the week of June 25-July 1. The report for the following week hasn’t been issued, but is expected to be released soon. The county, along with neighboring Manatee County, is under a mosquito-borne illness alert, and residents are being advised to apply insect repellant and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants at nighttime.

Locally acquired malaria – which is malaria that people contract from local mosquitoes – is very rare in the U.S. The Herald-Tribune spoke with a few professors who are experts in malaria about why the outbreak may have occurred and where it could go from here. One professor noted that it’s very unlikely that the outbreak will become a “COVID-level epidemic.”

Another said climate change could potentially cause outbreaks of locally acquired malaria to become larger and more frequent, but noted that it’s too early to tell if that will be the case.

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