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Malaria


Overview :

Malaria is a growing problem in the United States. Although only about 1400 new cases were reported in the United States and its territories in 2000, many involved returning travelers. In addition, locally transmitted malaria has occurred in California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York City. While malaria can be transmitted in blood, the American blood supply is not screened for malaria. Widespread malarial epidemics are far less likely to occur in the United States, but small localized epidemics could return to the Western world. As of late 2002, primary care physicians are being advised to screen returning travelers with fever for malaria, and a team of public health doctors in Minnesota is recommending screening immigrants, refugees, and international adoptees for the disease'particularly those from high-risk areas.

The picture is far more bleak, however, outside the territorial boundaries of the United States. A recent government panel warned that disaster looms over Africa from the disease. Malaria infects between 300 and 500 million people every year in Africa, India, southeast Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, and Central and South America. A 2002 report stated that malaria kills 2.7 million people each year, more than 75 percent of them African children under the age of five. It is predicted that within five years, malaria will kill about as many people as does AIDS. As many as half a billion people worldwide are left with chronic anemia due to malaria infection. In some parts of Africa, people battle up to 40 or more separate episodes of malaria in their lifetimes. The spread of malaria is becoming even more serious as the parasites that cause malaria develop resistance to the drugs used to treat the condition. In late 2002, a group of public health researchers in Thailand reported that a combination treatment regimen involving two drugs known as dihydroartemisinin and azithromycin shows promise in treating multidrug-resistant malaria in southeast Asia.




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