HEALTH

Mosquitos in Utah not likely to spread malaria, according to experts

Jun 28, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:50 pm

a large amount of mosquitos pictured at a utah mosquito abatement...

Biologist Christian Weinrich removes bycatch from a sampling of mosquitoes at the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement laboratory in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Public health authorities in Florida and Texas are worried about the spread of malaria after a few cases have turned up in people who haven’t traveled to areas where the disease is widespread. There is a species of mosquito found in Utah that could conceivably carry the parasite that causes malaria but experts say the likelihood of an outbreak here is very low.

A mosquito species found across Utah called Anopheles freeborni has the potential to carry malaria.

But Greg White with the Salt Lake Mosquito District said that kind of mosquito is pretty rare in Utah and only about 20 out of 20,000 mosquitos are Anopheles freeborni.

Are mosquitos in Utah spreading malaria?

The likelihood of an outbreak is low, White said.

“We just don’t have a lot of opportunities for mosquitos to bite infected people and then stay alive for the required two weeks and then go bite another person. So the chances of a human-hosted disease like malaria being transmitted in the U.S. are very very low.”

White said there’s never been an outbreak here, not even when an army hospital in Brigham City treated and housed thousands of soldiers during WWII.

“Even though there was 1000s of troops at that time, in the 1940s, who were infected with malaria, who were there in the state of Utah, they never did have a malaria outbreak or cases that were transmitted. So even in that kind of worst-case scenario, there wasn’t an issue here in Utah.”

Worry about other diseases

According to White, other diseases, such as West Nile virus are found in Utah every year. The mosquitos that carry those diseases are much more common.

White said they’re routinely monitoring mosquito populations to detect those diseases.

White said the control measures are the same for all species of mosquitos — don’t allow pools of standing water on your property. Wear long-sleeved clothing when you’re outside and use repellent to keep the biting bugs away.

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Mosquitos in Utah not likely to spread malaria, according to experts