A Statement from the FCAAP Emerging Infections Task Force on Autochthonous Malaria in Florida
Recent reports of autochthonous malaria in Florida and Texas are very concerning. Increasing temperatures due to climate change globally and in Florida coupled with presence of mosquitos known to transmit infectious diseases such as malaria have created conditions that augment the potential risk for local transmission of mosquito borne illnesses, including malaria. The last case of autochthonous malaria in Florida was reported in 2003. After 20 years, as of June 27, 2023, the Florida Department of Health has confirmed 4 autochthonous of malaria in the Sarasota area.
With kids enjoying summer activities while out of school, pediatricians should be aware of the potential risk of malaria in patients presenting with fever and nonspecific symptoms such as chills, muscle aches, nausea, headache, and anemia. The diagnosis is traditionally made by identifying the organism in a blood smear. If suspected, request thin and thick smears and alert the laboratory about concern for malaria. Rapid testing and molecular techniques are also available but not in most clinical laboratories and may need to be done in a reference laboratory.
These malaria cases are a red flag of the possibility of other mosquito borne illnesses such as dengue, zika, and chikungunya, among others, coming to Florida in the near future.
As with many other infection diseases transmitted by mosquitos, we all can contribute to contain the spread of infections by protecting children against mosquito bites. Potential interventions that can be quickly discussed in the office include draining standing water in gutters, old tires, and flowerpots, wearing long sleeves and long pants, wearing insect repellent, and using screens on windows.
Contact your local health department or your local pediatric infectious diseases physician if you have a suspected case of malaria.
Claudia M. Espinosa, MD, MSc & Mobeen H. Rathore, MD, FAAP
Co-Chairs, FCAAP Emerging Infections Task Force