How The U.S. Stopped Malaria, One Cartoon At A Time : Shots – Health News : NPRPosted: January 2, 2013
Last year, the CDC tallied 1,600 domestic malaria cases inside the U.S. All of these were in people who’d picked up the parasite outside of the country.
The low number of domestic cases poses a challenge for health care facilities, which rarely encounter the disease and may have difficulty diagnosing it. With malaria, a rapid diagnosis can be crucial because the disease can kill a person in a matter of days.
So the CDC helps local doctors, hospitals and health departments identify the parasite from pictures of blood. Local health workers can even send images of parasites via email for so-called telediagnosis.
Last year, the CDC fielded 450 inquiries for telediagnosis of suspected parasitic infections. About a third of those cases turned out to be malaria.
Microbiologist Blaine Mathison, one of two scientists who perform telediagnosis at the CDC, says he can even analyze an image of a blood smear straight off his BlackBerry. “I remember once,” he says, “I’ve actually sat at Turner Field at a Braves game and done diagnostics while watching a ballgame.”