University of Nebraska Medical Center

Where are the mosquitoes that spread malaria in the U.S.? Officials aren’t sure

NBC News The U.S. does not routinely track mosquitoes that spread malaria “because we haven’t been worried about them,” one expert said. Concerns over the insects, however, are growing.

A ninth case of malaria diagnosed in a person who had not traveled out of the U.S. has experts on alert — and calling for more surveillance of the mosquitoes that spread the illness.

“The time to think about the next mosquito-borne disease is not when we find a sick person. It’s now,” said Dan Markowski, technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association, a nonprofit organization representing groups that monitor mosquito activity.

While public health officials maintain that Americans’ risk of contracting malaria remains quite low, some experts say the country should increase its surveillance of the specific type of insects responsible for malaria spread: Anopheles mosquitoes.

“We have not been tracking them in the United States because we haven’t been worried about them,” said Dr. Photini Sinnis, an expert at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute in Baltimore.

It’s been decades since U.S. health authorities have had malaria on their radar. Malaria, a potentially deadly illness that causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches and extreme chills, sickened thousands of Americans in the early part of the 20th century. The disease spreads via a parasite that gets transmitted to a person through a mosquito bite.

Insecticides and elimination of standing water where mosquitoes like to breed wiped out the mosquito-borne illness from the U.S. in the early 1950s.

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