TAMPA, Fla. — There are now a total of six cases of malaria, an infectious disease considered eradicated in the United States in 1951, reported in Sarasota County.
What You Need To Know
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the United States sees only about 2,000 malaria cases a year, the majority of which are travelers returning from abroad
- There are six confirmed malaria cases in Sarasota County
- USF researchers say public can assist with mosquito research
- There are three different apps you can download to be a part of the effort by USF and its partners; information on how those apps can be found on mosquitodashboard.org
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the United States sees only about 2,000 cases a year, the majority of which are travelers returning from abroad.
However, these latest cases are through local transmission, prompting health officials to issue a state-wide mosquito-borne illness advisory.
Researchers at the University of South Florida are also urging people to help them track mosquitoes using their smart phones.
Assistant professor Ryan Carney said it’s as simple as snapping a photograph of any mosquito you come across. Through partner apps, the photos are then analyzed using artificial intelligence, identifying the species and their habitats.
Assistant professor Ryan Carney (Cait McVey/Spectrum Bay News 9)
That data is then compiled on a mosquito dashboard. Carney said this in turn, helps with mosquito control efforts.
“It’s really the mosquito that’s the deadliest animal on the planet,” Carney said. “You can think of them as little flying hypodermic needles of disease, and so we’re asking citizen scientists to help us find those malaria-spreading needles in the Florida haystack.”
Of the 80 mosquito species in Florida, only 14 can transmit diseases to humans. The Anopheles is the type that spreads malaria.
“It’s different than the Zika or dengue spreading species, which is Aedes aegypti primarily,” Carney said. “And that’s really the key here. That not all mosquito species transmit diseases and different species transmit different diseases at different rates.”
As for why the most recent cases of malaria in Sarasota County are considered local, Carney believes the initial case most likely still came from abroad but, because a person with malaria can be asymptomatic for months, that traveler may not have known.
All it takes is one bite from the right kind of mosquito species for the disease to start spreading locally, which is what Carney suspects happened in Sarasota County.
There are three different apps you can download to be a part of the effort by USF and its partners. Information on how those apps can be found on mosquitodashboard.org.