Malaria is the most devastating of all mosquito-borne diseases, and it has been known to humans for at least four thousand years. Way back in 2700 BC, malaria was described in ancient Chinese medical texts. However, the disease did not become a threat in the western world until modern times. Malaria was a major issue during America’s construction of the Panama Canal during the early 1900s, but it was not until World War II that malaria became a threat to Americans and Europeans. Following the war, many allied soldiers had contracted malaria while overseas. In order to prevent returning soldiers from infecting civilian populated areas, several governments around the world started their own malaria research programs. America responded to the mosquito threat during this time by creating the precursor to the modern government agency now known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the summer of 1946, the American Government formed the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) in order to prevent malaria outbreaks from occuring within the US. The agency was also tasked with developing medical treatments for the many citizens of America that had already contracted malaria. Initially, the CDC aimed to eliminate malaria entirely, but eventually, the agency focused more on preventing and controlling the global rate of malaria infections via surveillance measures. Today, malaria is not an issue in America, but the disease still takes many lives in developing nations. During the nearly eighty years of its existence, the CDC has reported only a small amount of malaria cases among American citizens. For example, in 1992, two teenage boys contracted malaria in Virginia. Two pools of malarial mosquitoes were found near the boys’ homes. However, the strain of malaria that had infected the two boys was mild, and easily treatable with antibiotic therapy. According to statistical data, more than twelve hundred cases of malaria are reported in America each year. The vast majority of these cases are contracted by immigrants or visitors from regions where malaria is epidemic.
Do you think that malaria could become a threat to Americans again in the future if the strain evolves?