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1870 Census Map of Malaria Mortality
I'm posting a more optimistic post this week, rejoicing in the fact that malaria has still not returned to the United States!  Malaria used to be endemic throughout portions of what is now the US in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Occasionally,  mysterious infections are contracted here but are extremely rare. The CDC MMWR Surveillance Summary for 2010 just came out and only 2 out of 1,691 cases were "cryptic" in origin within the United States. Autochthonous cases still pop up, at least 76 cases from 1957-1994, so it isn't necessarily gone but has yet to reestablish itself.
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http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/history/elimination_us.html
Malaria is thought to have entered North America via European colonists and African slaves in the 16th and 17th centuries. From 1946 to 1951 the Centers for Disease Control sprayed DDT and eliminated the parasite. Since then, cases of locally acquired malaria have been documented in legal immigrants, the homeless [in Houston, Texas], and migrant workers from endemic areas living in substandard housing. Anopheline mosquitoes, the primary vectors, prefer to feed in the evening and night when the host is most likely sleeping and not slapping them. Good housing in the US is thought to greatly decrease all sorts of vector-borne diseases that otherwise would be much more rampant.
Picture
http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/images/graphs/malaria_US_curves.gif
And no Parasaturdays post would be complete without a little background on the biology of the organism:
Monsters Inside Me was an Animal Planet series that ran from 2009-2010. It's a little dramatic but there are some cool computer generated animations of parasite life cycles. More videos can be found on the Animal Planet website if you feel like being very disturbed:  
http://animal.discovery.com/videos/monsters-inside-me/
More information on malaria can be found at the CDC website:  http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/history/ 

Zucker, J. (1996). Changing patterns of autochthonous malaria transmission in the United States: a review of recent outbreaks. Emerg Infect Dis, 2, 37–43.

Author
Stavana Strutz is a doctoral candidate in the Parmesan lab studying disease ecology and evolution.
 


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