CDC official reacts to Sarasota County Malaria spread

WWSB ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The current spread of Malaria in Sarasota County is starting to gain national attention in large part because of the rare way the disease is being transmitted.

This is the first time since 2003 that locally acquired Malaria, meaning the disease is being passed from an infected mosquito located inside the United States as opposed to coming from traveling to another country, has been spread anywhere in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now confirmed five cases nationally, with four of them here in Sarasota County.

The CDC’s Chief of Entomology, Audrey Lenhart explained what makes Florida a prime target for mosquitoes.

“In Florida those mosquitos persist year-round. In the more northern parts of the U.S. those particular mosquitoes die out in the winter, and it takes a while for those particular populations to come back. And also, there are big gateway cities in Florida where travelers come in and out with a high degree of regularity,” says Lenhart.

While Lenhart urges residents to take this spread very seriously by taking precautions like wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts outside and draining standing water, she also says it is possible the current threat could end relatively soon.

“You try to control the mosquito population for as long as you can, and then it just takes time. A typical mosquito will live maybe three to four weeks. So after several weeks with no new cases, we should feel fairly confident that there’s no more onward transmission,” says Lenhart.