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SALT LAKE CITY — On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported five cases of malaria in the United States, but what does this mean for Utahns?
Of the thousands of mosquitoes out there, only three species carry malaria, said Michael Rehbein of the Salt Lake City Housing District. The species lives in Utah; However, he said, many of them are not.
“Locally collected Anopheles mosquitoes do not transmit malaria, so they are not circulating in their wild populations,” Rehbein said.
Experts in the abatement district said there was a slim chance that Utahns would get malaria where infected mosquitoes live.
“Infected mosquitoes have to travel a long way to get here to Utah, and that’s not going to happen,” Rehbein explained.
But what if Utahns travel to malaria-infested areas? That’s where the danger lies, said Greg White, assistant director of the Salt Lake City Housing District.
“Malaria is very widespread through the tropics of the world, so they have it in Africa, they have it in Asia, they have it in South America,” White said.
🦟 Currently, the CDC is tracking 5 malaria cases in the United States, 4 in Florida and 1 in Texas. But could it go to Utah? It is possible. I talk to the experts about how the Utahns can narrow it down.
my story @KSL5TV At 6 o’clock. pic.twitter.com/YIpdv0uwpy
— Shelby Lofton (@newswithShelby) June 28, 2023
If a Utahn goes to those places, White said, that’s where the main danger lies.
“Before you go there, they will give you the right medicines that you need to take to prevent and stop any infection like malaria,” he said.
Still, it’s still worrisome that cases are emerging in the U.S. years later, White said. “Malaria was a big part of the Americas from its establishment until the 1950s when we got it under control, and it’s still a big problem in Africa.”
The district does not test for malaria, but they have systems in place to track the species’ locations.
Two Utah scientists are working in Mali, Africa to reduce malaria. This is the first time that SLC’s mosquito control techniques have been implemented there.
— Erin Cox (@erincoxnews) June 21, 2023
“We can point to any kind of preventative measures we need to take,” Rehbein said. “No need to panic.”
“I don’t think malaria is going to be a problem in Utah,” White added.
As for mosquitoes in 2023, the district reported more nuisance calls this year than last year. They report that the mosquito population is a bit worse and remind everyone to remove standing water to keep them at bay.