First US malaria cases diagnosed in decades, and other health stories you need to know about

Locally transmitted cases of malaria have been detected in the United States.
Locally transmitted cases of malaria have been detected in the United States.
Image: Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash
  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: US identifies a handful of locally transmitted malaria cases; Improved access to water and sanitation can save 1.4 million lives a year; and endometriosis may be caused by bacterial infections.

1. US issues malaria health alert

A health alert has been issued in the US after a handful of locally transmitted cases of malaria were identified in the country. The cases in Texas and Florida are the first to have spread within the country in 20 years.

Just five cases have been observed so far, and all patients have received treatment and are improving. It remains extremely unlikely that you will catch malaria in the country.

Typically malaria is seen as a tropical disease, with 95% of cases occurring in Africa. There are around 2,000 malaria cases in the US each year, but these are mostly observed in people returning from high-risk areas.

The news comes as Belize is certified by the World Health Organization as being malaria-free. This makes it the fourth country in the Americas to become so in the past five years.

2. Lack of water and basic hygiene facilities cost 1.4 million lives – WHO report

Half of the world's population still lacks access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, which could have prevented 1.4 million deaths in 2019, a new WHO report says. Access to these basic facilities would have also prevented 74 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

Diarrhoeal disease had the most significant impact, attributed to over a million deaths and 55 million DALYs. The next biggest disease burden was acute respiratory infections from poor hand hygiene, linked to 356,000 deaths and 17 million DALYs.

Nearly 8% of deaths in the under-fives were attributable to unsafe WASH.

Diarrhoeal disease burden in deaths and DALYs attributable to inadequate drinking water by region for 132 LMICs, 2019.
Over a third of diarrhoeal deaths in LMICs were attributable to unsafe drinking water. in 2019
Image: WHO

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

  • Endometriosis may be linked to a bacteria that contributes to gum disease, a small study has indicated. The finding suggests the condition could be treated or prevented with antibiotics. The chronic disease can cause life-impacting pain and is estimated to affect 10% of women and girls of reproductive age globally. There is currently no known cure, and treatment is focused on alleviating the symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are important, the WHO notes, but remain limited in many settings.
  • A new fund has been rolled out in the UK to support the diagnosis and treatment of patients using Artificial Intelligence (AI). The £21 million pot is aimed at accelerating the deployment of the most promising imaging tools, as well as using AI to support decision-making for diseases such as cancers, strokes and heart conditions.
  • Researchers have isolated a human gene involved in defending against infection from most bird flu viruses. Though it primarily infects birds, the virus can, in rare cases, infect humans. A team of scientists from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research found that a gene usually expressed in the respiratory tract could block the replication of most strains of bird flu in human cells.
  • A new tuberculosis vaccine - the first in 100 years - might be a step closer after more than $500 million in funding from philanthropic institutions was announced. The vaccine will go into final trials involving more than 25,000 people in Africa and south-east Asia.

4. More on health from Agenda

  • The potential of AI to improve health was one of the key topics of discussion during the World Economic Forum's 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, held between 27-29 June in Tianjin, China. "In order for efficacious therapeutics to reach patients globally, we have to find ways to make them more efficiently," said Ena Cratsenburg, Chief Business Officer of Ginkgo Bioworks, speaking at the event. It came as the Forum published a report on Scaling Smart Solutions with AI in Health: Unlocking Impact on High-Potential Use Cases.
  • Three critical changes are required for sustainable health financing, says the World Bank. These are prioritizing health in government spending, aligning external financing with national priorities and enhancing investments for stronger health systems.
  • 3D printed medicines could be part of the future of personalized medicines, a new study suggests. The technology could allow medicines to be tailored to specific health needs and allow for more accurate dosing.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2023 World Economic Forum