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2008 U.S. Malaria Data

2008 U.S. Malaria Data

Surveillance of malaria cases in the United States helps CDC provide recommendations to keep travelers healthy and identifies episodes of malaria transmission in the United States. CDC has recently compiled 2008 data on U.S. malaria cases.

The Numbers

Of the reported 1,298 cases of malaria in 2008, all but two were in travelers to areas where malaria transmission occurs.

Malaria cases and deaths 1985-2008. Average of 1,400 and 5 deaths per year.

Malaria cases and deaths 1985-2008. Average of 1,400 and 5 deaths per year.

More than half (65%) of the U.S. civilians who developed malaria were immigrants living in the United States who had returned to their country of origin to visit friends and relatives (called "VFR" travelers).

Travelers visiting relatives back home in a country with malaria need to be sure to prevent getting malaria themselves. Courtesy: Jim Gathany, CDC

Travelers visiting relatives back home in a country with malaria need to be sure to prevent getting malaria. Courtesy: Jim Gathany, CDC

VFRs’ Risk

Travelers visiting friends and relatives were 2 times more likely not to take drugs to prevent malaria than other travelers. In addition, VFRs represented almost half of all severe cases in 2008. The consequence of not taking precautions and promptly seeking medical care if symptoms develop is very significant and can be fatal.

More on: VFR Travelers

Diagnosing Malaria

Malaria can be suspected based on the patient's symptoms and the physical findings at examination. However, for a definitive diagnosis to be made, laboratory tests must demonstrate the malaria parasites or their components. Malaria must be recognized promptly in order to treat the patient in time and to avoid serious clinical complications.

The most common diagnostic test for identifying malaria is through microscopy. Malaria parasites can be identified by examining a drop of the patient's blood under a microscope to identify a malaria infection and the type of malaria species. This technique remains the gold standard for laboratory diagnosis of malaria. However, it depends on the quality of the reagents, of the microscope, and on the experience of the laboratorian to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Antigen testing for malaria can be conducted using a rapid diagnostic test kit. Although the results are available very quickly, the test must be followed by microscopy or molecular confirmation. Molecular confirmation, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is available to clinicians through State Health Laboratories or CDC, is highly encouraged to confirm the species of malaria if this has not been achieved through slide examination.

More on: Malaria Diagnosis (United States)

The long-tailed macaque is the natural host of P. knowlesi. Courtesy: Jupiter Images.

The long-tailed macaque is the natural host of P. knowlesi. Courtesy: Jupiter Images.

Importance of Correct Diagnosis

Malaria is caused by one of several species of the Plasmodium parasite. An accurate diagnosis of the species is necessary to properly treat a patient with the disease. In addition, efforts to identify the species may uncover a new infecting species in the United States. P. knowlesi has recently been recognized as a significant cause of human malaria in parts of Southeast Asia. Since this discovery, the first recognized case was in a traveler returning from the Philippines in 2008.

Importance of Prevention and Attention to Symptoms

All travelers going to an area where there is malaria transmission can prevent illness by taking one of the recommended chemoprophylactic drug regimens appropriate for the region of travel and by using personal protection measures to prevent mosquito bites.

More on: Malaria Prevention

More on: CDC Travelers' Health

Any person who has been to an area where malaria transmission occurs and who develops fever or influenza-like symptoms within the year after travel should seek medical care immediately and report their travel history to their health-care provider.

Health-Care Providers

Health-care providers should elicit a travel history from all patients who present with symptoms consistent with malaria. Clinicians seeking assistance with the diagnosis or treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed malaria should call the CDC Malaria Hot Line at 770-488-7788 during regular business hours, or the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 during evenings, weekends and holidays.

More on: Diagnosis & Treatment of Malaria in the United States

Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    MS A-06
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • Health care providers needing assistance with diagnosis or management of suspected cases of malaria should call the CDC Malaria Hotline:
    770-488-7788 or 855-856-4713 toll-free
    (M-F, 9am-5pm, eastern time).
  • Emergency consultation after hours, call:
    and request to speak with a CDC Malaria Branch clinician.
  • The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
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