The goal of our study was to determine the epidemiological and clinical features of imported malaria seen at our military hospital in Hawaii. We reviewed the records of malaria cases seen from January 1, 1979, to December 31, 1995, and compared our results with published reviews from civilian hospitals in North America. Seventy-nine patients were diagnosed with malaria by blood smears. All acquired malaria abroad, mostly in southeast Asia. Sixty-seven percent of cases were vivax malaria, 22% were falciparum malaria, and 11% were caused by undetermined species. Common symptoms were fever (100%), alternate day fever (41%), rigors (91%), headache (59%), nausea (41%), fatigue (39%), dark urine (32%), and vomiting (31%). Ninety-one percent had fever during hospitalization, but 39% were afebrile on admission. Splenomegaly was detected in 49% of cases. The white blood cell count was normal in 65%, low in 31%, and elevated in 4% of cases. Other laboratory findings were anemia (58%), thrombocytopenia (74%), and mild hyperbilirubinemia (64%). Military physicians initially considered the diagnosis of malaria in only 54% of patients. The epidemiological features of our patients differ from those described in the civilian hospitals. Most of our patients were nonimmune, U.S.-born, military personnel infected in southeast Asia, whereas patients described in reviews from U.S. civilian hospitals were usually foreign-born civilians who were infected in Africa or India. The clinical features of malaria, and the problems of initial misdiagnosis in our patients, were similar to those reported from civilian hospitals. Military physicians, like their civilian colleagues, need more training and experience in malaria.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health