CWRU doctor shares advice after domestic malaria cases appear in U.S.

Published: Jul. 3, 2023 at 8:57 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Case Western Reserve University researcher provided context and tips Monday with 19 News after the country recorded five domestic malaria cases.

“This is the first time that’s happened in 20 years,” said Dr. Brian Grimberg.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health alert, the five cases appeared in Florida and Texas.

Dr. Grimberg is part of a team that is studying the Vivax strand of the disease at the center of these infections.

“This species is very different because it also has a liver phase that can hang out for months, even years, and then burst and cause an infection,” he said.

Domestic malaria spread is still rare in the United States. The disease can only be transmitted through mosquitoes through a specific chain of events.

“The only way you could get it from me is if a mosquito bit me, flew away for 2 weeks, found you and then bit you. That’s the only chance,” Dr. Grimberg said.

Northeast Ohio is also at a lower risk of any malaria outbreak, due in part to the weather: “The greatest combat we have against bugs in Ohio is the winter.”

Dr. Grimberg explains the most common way Americans become infected with malaria is through international trips to countries and regions near the Equator.

He recommends Ohioans to take proper precautions while traveling and use bug spray.

“You should be on an anti-malarial drug if you travel to Equatorial regions of the world,” he added.

If traveling, the Case Western researcher also suggests to residents to track their symptoms, especially for the Vivax strand.

“This type of malaria has a cyclic fever, so every several hours you could feel the fever spike up.”

As the CDC continues to investigate the new malaria cases, Dr. Grimberg is reminding the community to remain calm.

“There’s not a big threat that malaria is going to come roaring back, especially here in Ohio,” he said.