Sarasota malaria cases prompt statewide health advisory

The Florida Department of Health issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after confirming more cases of malaria on Monday. As it stands right now, a total of 4 cases have been confirmed in Sarasota County. 

"It truly is very rare because that means the mosquitoes in that area had fed on a person that had malaria and then the parasite developed inside the mosquito in order for it to pass it to another human being," Florida Mosquito Control Association President Sandra Fisher-Grainger said.

State health officials say malaria is spreading in Florida through Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the "Plasmodium vivax" parasite. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria, and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person. 

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The parasite can then spread to humans through bites from infected mosquitos. As Fisher-Grainger explains malaria is a relapsing fever, meaning it can come and go.

"The parasite stays inside of the body and when it becomes active again, that's when you start to have symptoms again. You may initially experience the fever and the chills and that sort of thing, and then you may be fine for a while, and then it comes back, and you go through it again," Fisher-Grainger said.

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Common symptoms of malaria include a fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea and vomiting. The DOH says anyone in the Sarasota County experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. 

As of right now, the state says aerial, and ground mosquito spraying will continue in the affected areas to reduce the risk of further transmission.

"The fact that the season hasn't started yet or it to be now that's kind of a good thing because they get ahead of it before the rains really start coming," Fisher-Grainger said.