US reports first malaria cases in 20 years

STORY: For the first time in two decades, five cases of malaria have been found in the U.S. -

-all confirmed in Florida and Texas - and acquired within American borders.

That's according to a Monday alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s Dr. Debra Houry from the CDC:

"So each year, particularly before COVID we saw about 2,000 cases of malaria in the United States each year. But that was from people traveling abroad, and acquired it internationally. What is different this time, and why we put out the health notice to doctors and to the public is we had five cases, of domestically acquired malaria, meaning people got it from in the United States, four in Florida and one in Texas."

Malaria is caused by a parasite carried by certain female mosquitoes.

Initial symptoms resemble the flu. But if left untreated, malaria can cause life-threatening damage, including kidney failure, seizures and coma.

Over half a million people die globally from the disease every year.

The US cases were diagnosed over a two-month period, with the first occurrence in Florida in late May.

Both it and Texas have since issued their own health alerts.

Dr. Andrea Barry is with the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

[Dr. Andrea Barry / Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine]

"So it is a little alarming to have a disease that we have eliminated from the United States and then have these few local cases. But they are a few cases, and I think that public health measures are really important for both tracking where the malaria is and then, therefore, making any interventions like trying to prevent more mosquito bites, by either decreasing the mosquito population or asking everyone to wear mosquito repellant. These are all things that can prevent ongoing transmission."

The CDC said that the domestic risk of malaria still remains low...

...and that fully 95% of malaria infections are acquired in Africa.