Summer is winding down, but mosquitoes haven’t gotten the memo!
They’re still out there, biting and in some cases spreading diseases, including one that hasn’t spread in the United States in 20 years.
Here are the details on the return of malaria and how you can protect yourself.
Malaria was virtually wiped out in the US in the 1950s, but this summer the CDC announced nine cases of “locally acquired malaria.”
That means the people infected had not traveled to areas where malaria is common.
“The most likely scenario is that a person who is traveling in a foreign country was infected with malaria and came back to the United States and was bitten by a mosquito here and that mosquito then went on to bite somebody else transmitting malaria on,” Catherine Roberts with CR said.
Consumer Reports said at least seven people in Florida, two in Texas, and one in Maryland tested positive for what is believed to be locally acquired malaria.
“The other more worrisome scenario, although the slightly less likely one, is that the US may have a previously undetected new strain of malaria-infected mosquitoes,” she said.
CR said the most common symptoms are flu-like and include fever, shaking chills, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting and typically start 7 to 30 days after infection.
Why is malaria returning now?
“Factors like a warming climate, increasing global travel can make the environment friendlier to mosquitoes and to the diseases that they carry. So public health measures have had a good track record of stopping malaria transmission inside the United States,” she said.
CR said despite these new cases, the risk of locally acquired malaria in the U.S. is extremely low, while other mosquito-borne infections like West Nile are far more common, and can be dangerous.
“Your best bet is to prevent mosquito bites before they happen. And a great way to do that is to always use a safe and effective insect repellent,” she said.
Consumer Reports’ tests show the most effective repellents include those that contain 25 to 30 percent deet – like 3m Ultrathon Insect Repellent8 and Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent Wilderness Formula Pump.
Consumer Reports said it’s also important to keep mosquitoes away from your yard.
Keep your space free of containers filled with water, and keep your lawn mowed and free of leaves and other debris.