While malaria still kills over 1 million people each year, most of those
deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa—the United States has been free of the
disease since 1951. In the 19th century, however, malaria was extremely common
within the United States, with over 1 million cases reported during the Civil
War alone. The map below depicts deaths from malaria in 1870—10 years before the
malaria parasite was even discovered.
#1 - Believed to have been
brought to the Americas by Europeans in the late 1600s, malaria primarily
impacted those in the Southeast and port cities, but extended as far north as
the Dakotas, says Margaret Humphreys, a history of medicine professor at Duke
#2 - Of the five species of the
Plasmodium parasite that can cause malaria, P. falciparum and
P. vivax were the most common in the United States. “The malaria that
is shown here north of the Mason-Dixon Line was likely vivax malaria,”
Humphreys says, which “can hide out in the liver and re-emerge later, causing
#3 - During the Civil War, the presence of
malaria in the United States skyrocketed, killing some 10,000 Union soldiers
annually during the war. The war brought “hordes of men into the swampy areas of
the coastal south and along the major rivers”—such as the Mississippi, James,
and Potomac—”who then took the parasite home with them,” says Humphreys.
#4 - In 1946, the Communicable Disease
Center (today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC) was created in
Atlanta, Georgia, with the primary focus of eliminating malaria from the South.
Through a variety of efforts, including draining swamps, removing mosquito
breeding sites, and spraying pesticides, malaria was considered eradicated from
the United States within just 5 years.
Source: The Scientist
Robert Karl Stonjek