Malaria isn’t a disease you think of striking Americans, but with the rate at the highest it’s been in decades, health experts are reminding travelers to be pragmatic when entering countries where malaria is prevalent.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that approximately 2,000 cases of malaria were diagnosed and treated in the United States in 2011. Almost all of these cases were acquired overseas in regions with malaria transmission – and five people died as a result of infection. The number is the highest reported since 1971.
Millions of Americans travel abroad each year – often times to places were malaria is transmitted. Those who get the disease typically did not take an antimalarial drug to prevent the illness or did not take the appropriate drug or dose.
According to the CDC, most of the infected people had been in sub-Saharan Africa. It should be noted that India, for the first time, is the country from which the most cases were imported into the U.S.
Traveling to a foreign country is not out of the question. But the CDC recommends travelers take the following steps to protect themselves and their families.
1. See your doctor four to six weeks before your trip.
2. Buy malaria pills before you leave.
3. Make sure you take your malaria pills according to directions.
4. Avoid mosquito bites by sleeping under an insecticide treated bed net, wearing long sleeves and pants and using bug repellant.
5. If you get sick – with symptoms like fever and chills – see a doctor immediately to rule out malaria or get treatment if you’ve been infected.