Malaria surveillance--United States, 2013
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Malaria surveillance--United States, 2013

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  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: Malaria in humans is caused by intraerythrocytic protozoa of the genus Plasmodium. These parasites are transmitted by the bite of an infective female Anopheles mosquito. The majority of malaria infections in the United States occur among persons who have traveled to regions with ongoing malaria transmission. However, malaria is also occasionally acquired by persons who have not traveled out of the country through exposure to infected blood products, congenital transmission, laboratory exposure, or local mosquitoborne transmission. Malaria surveillance in the United States is conducted to identify episodes of local transmission and to guide prevention recommendations for travelers. Period Covered: This report summarizes cases in persons with onset of illness in 2013 and summarizes trends during previous years. Description of System: Malaria cases diagnosed by blood film, polymerase chain reaction, or rapid diagnostic tests are mandated to be reported to local and state health departments by health care providers or laboratory staff. Case investigations are conducted by local and state health departments, and reports are transmitted to CDC through the National Malaria Surveillance System, National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, or direct CDC consultations. CDC conducted antimalarial drug resistance marker testing on blood samples submitted to CDC by health care providers or local/state health departments. Data from these reporting systems serve as the basis for this report. Results: CDC received 1,727 reported cases of malaria, including two congenital cases, with an onset of symptoms in 2013 among persons in the United States. The total number of cases represents a 2% increase from the 1,687 cases reported for 2012. Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale were identified in 61%, 14%, 3%, and 4% of cases, respectively. Forty (2%) patients were infected by two species. The infecting species was unreported or undetermined in 17% of cases. Polymerase chain reaction testing determined or corrected the species for 85 of the 137 (62%) samples evaluated for drug resistance marker testing. Of the 904 patients who reported purpose of travel, 635 (70%) were visiting friends or relatives (VFR). Among the 961 cases in U.S. civilians for whom information on chemoprophylaxis use and travel region was known, 42 (4%) patients reported that they had initiated and adhered to a chemoprophylaxis drug regimen recommended by CDC for the regions to which they had traveled. Thirty-six cases were reported in pregnant women, none of whom had adhered to chemoprophylaxis. Among all reported cases, approximately 270 (16%) were classified as severe illnesses in 2013. Of these, 10 persons with malaria died in 2013, the highest number since 2001. In 2013, a total of 137 blood samples submitted to CDC were tested for molecular markers associated with antimalarial drug resistance. Of the 100 P. falciparum-positive samples, 95 were tested for pyrimethamine resistance: 88 (93%) had genetic polymorphisms associated with pyrimethamine drug resistance, 74 (76%) with sulfadoxine resistance, 53 (53%) with chloroquine resistance, one (1%) with atovaquone resistance, none with mefloquine drug resistance, and none with artemisinin resistance. Interpretation: The overall trend of malaria cases has been increasing since 1973; the number of cases reported in 2013 is the third highest annual total since then. Despite progress in reducing the global burden of malaria, the disease remains endemic in many regions, and the use of appropriate prevention measures by travelers is still inadequate. Public Health Actions: Completion of data elements on the malaria case report form increased slightly in 2013 compared with 2012, but still remains unacceptably low. This incomplete reporting compromises efforts to examine trends in malaria cases and prevent infections. VFRs continue to be a difficult population to reach with effective malaria prevention strategies. Evidence-based prevention strategies that effectively target VFRs need to be developed and implemented to have a substantial impact on the numbers of imported malaria cases in the United States. Fewer patients reported taking chemoprophylaxis in 2013 (32%) compared with 2012 (34%), and adherence was poor among those who did take chemoprophylaxis. Proper use of malaria chemoprophylaxis will prevent the majority of malaria illness and reduce the risk for severe disease ( Malaria infections can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated promptly with antimalarial medications appropriate for the patient’s age and medical history, the likely country of malaria acquisition, and previous use of antimalarial chemoprophylaxis. Recent molecular laboratory advances have enabled CDC to identify and conduct molecular surveillance of antimalarial drug resistance markers ( These advances will allow CDC to track, guide treatment, and manage drug resistance in malaria parasites both domestically and globally. For this to be successful, specimens should be submitted for all cases diagnosed in the United States. Clinicians should consult the CDC Guidelines for Treatment of Malaria and contact the CDC’s Malaria Hotline for case management advice, when needed. Malaria treatment recommendations can be obtained online ( or by calling the Malaria Hotline (770-488-7788 or toll-free at 855-856-4713). Suggested citation for this article: Cullen KA, Mace KE, Arguin PM. Malaria Surveillance — United States, 2013. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016;65place_Holder_For_Early_Release:1–22. DOI: PMID: 26938139
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