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Symposium Highlights: Malaria: Current Situation in Puerto Rico

The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Infectious and Global Disease Program and the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus sponsored the symposium “Malaria: La situación actual en Puerto Rico” (Malaria: Current situation in Puerto Rico). The symposium was held as a community engagement activity to provide a comprehensive overview of the disease and an assessment of the current situation regarding recently imported malaria cases in Puerto Rico.

 

Speakers: Adelfa E. Serrano, José Rigau-Pérez, Roberto Barrera, Iván Ferrer-Rodríguez,
Diana Otero, Keith Carter, Brenda Rivera, and Bernard Christenson

Renowned and prestigious scientists and health professionals from the academia, federal agencies, international organizations, and the public and private health sectors participated and shared their expertise on malaria.


The symposium was coordinated by Dr. Adelfa E. Serrano, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Medical Zoology at the UPR-Medical Sciences Campus and Key-Activity Coordinator of the Infectious and Global Diseases Program-RCMI. Dr. Keith Carter, Senior Advisor on Malaria at the Pan American Health Organization (OPS, by its Spanish acronym) and World Health Organization (WHO) summarized the current malaria situation in the Americas and the Caribbean, as well as the efforts to eradicate the disease in the region. Dr. Carter emphasized the importance of surveillance to avoid reintroduction of autochthonous malaria in Puerto Rico. During the symposium Dr. Serrano provided an overview of the natural history of the disease and shared the latest results of her research on malaria. The audience had the opportunity to learn about the history of malaria in Puerto Rico, presented by Dr. José Rigau-Pérez; Ad Honorem Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, at the UPR-Medical Sciences Campus.

Information about the presence of Anopheline mosquitoes in Puerto Rico was presented by Dr. Roberto Barrera, from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), Dengue Branch, and Dr. Iván Ferrer-Rodríguez, from the Interamerican University and the Department of Health of Puerto Rico, discussed current methods for malaria diagnosis. Infectious diseases specialists, Drs. Diana Otero and Bernard Christenson, HIMA Hospitals, shared their experiences and challenges treating malaria patients. Last but not least, Dr. Brenda Rivera, Puerto Rico’s State Epidemiologist, Department of Health of Puerto Rico, discussed and recommended preventive measures for travellers. Time was allocated at the end of the presentations for a questions and answers section, with an active participation from health professionals and the general public attending the symposium.

Attendance to the symposium exceeded 150 participants including researchers, graduate students, and health professionals. This special activity not only served to educate about the pathophysiology, risks and prevention of malaria, but also fostered the exchange of ideas among multidisciplinary professionals who are committed to identify and implement the best strategies to prevent the transmission of malaria from endemic areas to Puerto Rico.

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