Leading SA: UT Health San Antonio infectious disease specialist discusses Malaria, Measles risk in Texas

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Department of State Health Services announces it is aware of one case of Malaria in Texas. Although no infected mosquitos have been found, many are left with questions about what this means.

Dr. Jason Bowling, an infectious disease specialist with UT Health San Antonio, joined Leading SA to discuss what is happening and what families should know.

“Malaria is a disease that’s caused not by bacteria or virus, but a different type of germ called protozoa. It is only transmitted by mosquitoes to people, so it’s not transmitted from person to person. We see most of the cases in the world. About 95% of them are on the continent of Africa. We do see cases every year in the United States, but they’re usually coming from people that have visited other areas where it transmits locally. So it is big news that we have a local case here in Texas. What it means for people here in Texas is, fortunately, the risk is extremely low, and there’s only been one case identified so far,” Dr. Bowling said.

Dr. Bowling said mosquitos are more than just a nuisance, they can spread disease.

He shared some precautionary measures that can be taken to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

“People need to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites, put on insect repellent, and try and empty any standing water that might be around your house. And a Flowerpot is a popular area. And those little dishes around your plants that are outside, outside of the sun or other areas, we may have water in standing baby pools, things like that.”

Dr. Bowling said there is a very low risk of contracting the illness and also discussed the treatability and even the possibility of a vaccine.

Malaria is a very treatable disease. The important thing is that it’s identified and diagnosed; really, that’s the key. Because the medicines we use are a little bit different than the common antibiotics, we use for other types of infections... it’s important that people recognize and identify. That’s why the CDC has put out this early alert that it is a possibility. The symptoms [are] that people can have a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They’re pretty nonspecific... [and] they’ve been working on a vaccine for a while. There’s a lot of hope for a vaccine [and they] are still kind of being studied. There’s not one yet planned for the United States because we don’t have that many cases here. Hopefully, that will continue,” Dr. Bowling said.

This malaria scare also coincides with the CDC finding a case of measles in Texas as well.

Dr. Bowling shared details on the risk of measles transmission during summer travel.

The CDC has been pretty busy with some help with health advisory notices. There was a case of measles just southwest of Fort Worth. And this child that it was identified in had not really traveled, and so what the CDC has is raise the alert. Really, it’s important for people to recognize that we have an excellent vaccine against measles. Really, it’s almost upper 90% as far as effective protection against the disease. So people need to make sure that they’re vaccinated. And then, if they’re traveling places, they need to look ahead. And if you’re going to go travel to a country abroad, you should look to see, do they have measles outbreaks? There’s a lot of concern with the disruption we have with the COVID pandemic that people might be off schedule with their immunizations. And then in some areas of Europe with the war, there are people that are scattered as well. So there’s a higher risk for measles transmission and particularly for people that are traveling this summer,” said Dr. Bowling.

About the Author

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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