Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that is potentially fatal. Most cases in the United States stem from travelers returning home after contracting the illness in a foreign country.
Other common tropical diseases for U.S. travelers include the Zika virus, ebola virus, dengue fever, typhoid fever, and even tuberculosis.
Treatment for tropical diseases should be administered as soon as diagnosis. For many of these diseases, vaccination is not available.
Malaria is an infectious disease caused by mosquito bites.
When a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, parasites in the mosquito’s saliva are transferred into the person’s bloodstream. The parasites eventually travel to the person’s liver.
Symptoms typically surface between ten and fifteen days after the initial mosquito bite. Those symptoms can include fever, lethargy, nausea, headaches, seizures, coma and even death.
Because symptoms of malaria don’t surface for nearly two weeks after being bitten, many American travelers return to the United States not knowing they have been infected.
Unlike influenza, HIV and other infectious diseases, malaria is not easily transmissible from person to person. It cannot be sexually transmitted, and you can’t catch it from casual contact with someone who is infected. Malaria can only be transmitted through blood contact, such as sharing needles or blood transfusions.
There is not currently a vaccine for malaria, despite the disease’s widespread and often fatal presence, primarily in tropical and subtropical countries.
In 2016 alone, there were 216 million cases of malaria, resulting in 445,000 deaths.
Other Common Tropical Diseases
In addition to malaria, there are other tropical diseases that are common among American travelers returning home.
The Ebola virus, Zika virus, yellow fever, typhoid fever, dengue fever and tuberculosis are among the most common tropical diseases.
If you’re recently returned from a tropical or foreign region (like Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia , Papua New Guinea, or India), you may fear that you’re carrying a tropical disease.
Tests for asymptomatic returned travelers can help determine whether you are infected with a tropical disease. If you are, you will need to seek immediate medical care to combat the disease’s effects.