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Severe Morbidity and Mortality Risk From Malaria in the United States, 1985–2011

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  • Alternative Title:
    Open Forum Infect Dis
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    Background.  Recent reports of Plasmodium vivax associated with severe syndromes and mortality from malaria endemic areas questions the “benign” course of non-falciparum malarias. Methods.  We retrospectively analyzed data from patients reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a diagnosis of malaria parasite single-species infection between 1985 and 2011. Patients classified as having severe illness were further classified according to outcome (survival versus death) and clinical syndrome. Results.  Among all cases, .9% of Plasmodium falciparum cases resulted in death and 9.3% were classified as severe, whereas .09% of P. vivax cases resulted in death and 1.3% were classified as severe. The odds ratios for severe illness among 15 272 diagnoses of P. falciparum relative to patients diagnosed with P. vivax (n = 12 152), Plasmodium malariae (n = 1254), or Plasmodium ovale (n = 903) was 7.5, 5.7, and 5.0, respectively (P < .0001 for all); in contrast, the corresponding odds ratios for death among those severely ill was 1.6, 1.1, and .8 (P > .1 for all), respectively. Compared with P. vivax (n = 163), the odds of P. falciparum cases classified as severely ill (n = 1416) were 1.9 (P = .0006), .5 (P = .001), and 1.3 times (P = .1) as likely to present as cerebral, acute respiratory distress, and renal syndromes, respectively. Conclusions.  Although less common, patients presenting with non-falciparum even in the United States can develop severe illness, and severe illness in patients having malaria of any species threatens life.
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