The Heat Is Online

Malaria Breaks Out in Long Island

2 Contract Malaria at Long Island Camp

Newsday, Sept. 1, 1999

In the first case of locally contracted malaria on Long Island in at least a decade, two 11-year-old boys caught the disease from mosquitoes while at a summer camp in Calverton, health officials said. They had stayed at the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp from 1-7 Aug 1999.

Because of the two-week incubation period of the disease, symptoms did not show until the boys had returned to their Suffolk County homes.

It is extremely rare for malaria to be contracted within the United States. Usually the disease is brought here by someone who has traveled to a tropical or subtropical country where the disease is more common. The state Health Department issued a bulletin to hospitals on Long Island advising them to consider malaria in any patients with unexplained fever.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Clare Bradley said both boys were in good condition and at home with their parents. They were taking doses of the drug chloroquine for the disease, she said.

"The working theory is that they acquired it here," Bradley said. "It's spread by mosquitoes ... There's no person-to-person spread." Bradley said no records were available yesterday to show when and where the last malaria case occurred on Long Island, but there had been none in at least 10 years.

Malaria is a parasitic infection whose symptoms include fever, chills and sweating that recur every two to three days. Other symptoms are headache and nausea. The disease, which is transmitted by the anopheles mosquito, is treatable and usually identified through a blood test.

The first case was diagnosed by one of the boy's doctors late last week, but Bradley said the Suffolk County Health Department did not let the public know because the source of the disease had not been identified. "We didn't know where this child had contracted it, whether it was in his home or his Boy Scout camp," Bradley said.

On Monday, a doctor for another boy contacted the health department, and health officials realized both had stayed at the camp the same week. A search of the 200-acre camp, a hilly, woodland area bordered by the Baiting Hollow State Tidal Wetlands, found mosquitoes with the disease. Boy Scouts officials closed the camp yesterday to allow health department officials to spray the area.

Residents who want to take measures to avoid mosquitoes should use insect sprays and netting and avoid being outside at dusk and dawn, times when mosquito numbers are high, officials said. Boy Scouts representatives said they had contacted the parents of the 1500 Scouts who visited the camp this summer by phone and letter to inform them of the two cases.

"Quite obviously it's a shock," said Kenneth D'Apice, scout executive for Suffolk County Council, Boy Scouts of America. "No one thinks of malaria in the continental United States." Health officials said parents of other children at the camp and the public at large should not overreact to the news.

"As with any time their child has a fever, parents should be concerned but not unduly alarmed," state Health Commissioner Antonia Novello said in a statement. The most recent cases of locally acquired malaria occurred in Queens in 1993. [By Errol A. Cockfield Jr.]