Texas resident diagnosed with malaria after working outside in Cameron County

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An unidentified Texas resident has been diagnosed with malaria after working outside in Cameron County, which is the first time a locally acquired case has happened in the state in nearly 30 years.

In a health advisory issued Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services said the individual was recently diagnosed.

“DSHS has been working with local health departments to follow up on the case and determine whether other people may have been exposed,” the advisory stated. “So far, no other locally acquired malaria cases have been identified in Texas.”

The health agency said in the advisory that the last locally acquired case happened in 1994.

DSHS noted that the person who is ill has not traveled outside the country or state.

“Almost all cases of malaria in the United States are imported and occur in people who have traveled to or are coming from countries with ongoing malaria transmission,” the advisory stated.

However, locally acquired cases occur in the United States when a mosquito bites an infected traveler and then bites someone else.

“Texas averages more than 120 travel-related malaria cases a year,” the advisory stated.

DSHS said clinicians should consider malaria in patients with fever or other similar symptoms combined with people who have a history of mosquito bites and order testing as needed.

“The public should protect themselves from mosquito bites by using an EPA registered insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and draining standing water to limit mosquito breeding habitat,” the advisory stated.

Malaria is serious and can be potentially fatal. It is caused by a protozoan parasite that can be transmitted through a mosquito bite.

“The most common symptoms of malaria are flu-like and include fever, shaking chills, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting and typically start 7 to 30 days after infection,” the advisory stated. “Without treatment, severe malaria can be life-threatening and can cause disorientation, seizures and other neurological symptoms, low red blood cell counts (anemia), acute respiratory distress syndrome, and kidney damage.”