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Eighth malaria case confirmed in Sarasota equals largest U.S. outbreak of the disease in decades

A seventh Sarasota-area resident has been infected with malaria acquired by a mosquito bite in town, which adds an eighth person to tie the largest U.S. group to become infected with the parasitic virus in nearly a century.

Malaria remains one of the world’s greatest public health concerns, infecting about 219 million people each year. Untreated, the virus is often deadly and kills on average about 660,000 of those infected — mostly children in Africa.

Malaria is transmitted by a parasite left behind in the saliva of an infected mosquito during a sting.

The first case of malaria in Sarasota County this year was diagnosed on May 26 and more followed; nearly a month later a Cameron County, Texas, man was identified with the virus. There is no evidence that the cases are related, health officials say, and everybody involved has been treated at hospitals and are recovering.

The majority of malaria cases diagnosed in the United States are imported, usually by people traveling overseas to countries where malaria is endemic and then feel the flu-like symptoms back here.