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Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite, Plasmodium, which infects red blood cells. The disease is transmitted when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites a person and injects the malaria parasites (sporozoites) into the blood. This species of mosquito is found on Guam.
Infection with malaria parasites may result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from none or very mild symptoms to severe disease and even death. In general, malaria is a curable disease if diagnosed and treated promptly and correctly. The symptoms characteristic of malaria include flulike illness with fever, chills, muscle aches, and headache. Cycles of chills, fever, and sweating that repeat every one, two, or three days are typical. There can sometimes be vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and yellowing (jaundice) of the skin and whites of the eyes due to destruction of red blood cells and liver cells.
About 1,500 cases of malaria are reported every year in the United States, even though malaria has been eradicated in this country since the early 1950’s. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from malaria-endemic countries. All reported malaria cases on Guam in the past decade were imported as well.
When traveling, obtain a detailed itinerary including all possible destinations that may be encountered during the trip and check to see if malaria transmission occurs in these locations. To protect yourself from malaria, avoid mosquito bites through the use of repellents or insecticide-treated bed nets, and specific medicines to prevent malaria. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after returning home (for up to 1 year) should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician their travel history.
For more information please contact the Mosquito Surveillance and Control Program of the Division of Environmental Health of this Department at 735-7221.
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