On average, 1500 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.
Between 1957 and 2009, in the United States, 63 outbreaks of locally transmitted mosquito-borne malaria have occurred; in such outbreaks, local mosquitoes become infected by biting persons carrying malaria parasites (acquired in endemic areas) and then transmit malaria to local residents.
Malaria is a potentially fatal tropical disease that's caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium. It's spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito. The infected person may have feverish attacks, influenza-like symptoms, tiredness, diarrhea or a whole range of other symptoms.
The malaria parasite, Plasmodium, is a small, single-cell organism (protozoan) that lives as a parasite in man and a specific species of mosquito (Anopheles).
There are four different types of malaria parasite: Plasmodium falciparum is the cause of fatal malaria, while Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae cause more benign types of malaria. Falciparum malaria can kill, but the other forms are much less likely to prove fatal.
A major pathway through which malaria parasites invade red blood cells is the binding of a protein on the surface of merozoites called EBA-175 to a receptor protein on the surface of red blood cells called glycophorin A. Merozoites die if they do not invade red blood cells soon after their release (from liver cells) into the bloodstream. Thus, the binding of EBA-175 to glycophorin A is a prominent target for the development of therapies to control malaria.
Scientists around the world are trying to develop a safe and effective vaccine for malaria. As of yet, however, there is still no malaria vaccine approved for human use.
Malaria has shaped our trade and settlement patterns, and our demographics. Today, it sickens 300 million every year, and kills nearly 1 million, despite the fact that we've known how to cure it (with parasite-killing drugs) and prevent it (by avoiding mosquito bites) for over a century.
People in malarious countries should fear malaria the way they fear HIV and cancer, but according to medical anthropologists, they don't. They think of it more like the cold. And we've named it accordingly. We don't call malaria anything like the "Black Death," despite it having caused more mayhem and for longer than the plague, but rather have named it after "bad air," the mal aria.
Malaria is also known as Jungle fever, Marsh fever, Paludal fever. Approximately 40% of the total global population is at risk of Malaria infection.
Each year, there are over 250 million cases and almost one million deaths -- most of them young children, and the vast majority in Africa. But in many countries, malaria is also a success story. Since 2000, the number of reported malaria cases, deaths, or both has declined by at least half in 25 countries. Zanzibar -- a relatively small but striking example -- has virtually eliminated the disease over the past five years. These successes show what a combination of political will, technical resources, and financial commitment can do when applied to a strategy that works.