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US reports local malaria cases for first time in 20 years as EU warns about mosquito-borne illness

This 2014 photo made available by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows a feeding female Anopheles gambiae mosquito.
This 2014 photo made available by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows a feeding female Anopheles gambiae mosquito. Copyright James Gathany/CDC via AP, File
Copyright James Gathany/CDC via AP, File
By Lauren Chadwick
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European health officials warned last week that warming temperatures are creating “more favourable conditions” for the spread of invasive mosquito species that can carry diseases.

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US health authorities have issued a warning about malaria after two states reported locally acquired cases of the disease for the first time in two decades.

There have been four reported cases of malaria in Florida and one case in Texas, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in the health alert.

Malaria is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that is transmitted by some types of mosquitoes.

There were an estimated 247 million cases globally in 2021 with 95 per cent occurring in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mild symptoms of malaria can include fever, chills and headache while more severe symptoms can include seizures, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

“Mosquito surveillance and control measures have been implemented in the affected area,” the CDC said in a statement.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were around 2,000 cases of malaria reported in the US each year, most of which were travel related.

Risk of mosquito-borne illness to increase with climate change

Scientists have warned that warming temperatures due to climate change could create conditions that favour the spread of mosquitoes.

The European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week that the Asian tiger mosquito, a vector of dengue and chikungunya viruses, has established itself further north and west in Europe.

“If this continues, we can expect to see more cases and possibly deaths from diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and West Nile fever,” said ECDC director Andrea Ammon in a statement.

“Efforts need to focus on ways to control mosquito populations, enhancing surveillance and enforcing personal protective measures”.

More than 1,000 cases of West Nile virus and more than 71 cases of dengue were locally acquired in the EU and European Economic Area in 2022, according to the ECDC.

A study led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and published in The Lancet in 2021 estimated that if emissions are kept at current levels, an estimated 8.4 billion people could be at risk of malaria and dengue by the year 2100.

The research predicted that there would be a “northward shift” of malaria in North America, central, northern Europe and northern Asia as well as a similar shift of dengue in Europe and the northern US.

Of the 4,856 malaria cases reported in the European Union and Economic Area in 2021, 99.7 per cent were travel related with thirteen confirmed cases reported as acquired in the EU, according to the ECDC.

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