A case of dengue fever has been documented in the Miami area recently for the first time in about fifty years. The disease is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. Aedes aegypti is the species of mosquito which carries the disease. This year there has been a number of dengue fever cases in Key West, which is about 160 miles from Miami. There were enough cases that the Centers for Disease Control conducted an investigation and determined there could be as many as five percent of the local population who were exposed to the disease, which is over 1,000 people. “We’re concerned that if dengue gains a foothold in Key West, it will travel to other southern cities where the mosquito that transmits dengue is present, like Miami,” said Harold Margolis, chief of the CDC dengue branch. (Source: CDC.gov)
Infection can result from a single mosquito bite. No cure is available for the disease, nor is there a vaccine. The mosquito which carries dengue fever produces eggs in rainwater found in abandoned tires, plastic bags, plastic bottle caps, and just about anywhere there is a puddle of rainwater, no matter how small.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends these measures to avoid being bitten by a mosquito carrying dengue fever for travelers:
* Select accommodations with well-screened windows or air-conditioning when possible. Aedes mosquitoes typically live indoors and are often found in dark, cool places such as in closets, under beds, behind curtains, and in bathrooms. A traveler should be advised to use insecticides to get rid of mosquitoes in these areas.
* Wear clothing that adequately covers the arms and legs, especially during the early morning and late afternoon. (This is when the mosquito carrying the disease is most active, though they can bite at any time.)
* Apply insect repellent to both skin and clothing (e.g., permethrin). The most effective repellents contain DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide).
* For long-term travelers, empty and clean or cover any standing water that can be mosquito-breeding sites in your accommodation (e.g., water storage barrels).
Symptoms of the disease are fever, rash, headache, bleeding gums, pain behind the eyes, red palms and soles, and joint pain.
The virus is not contagious from people. In Miami public health officials instructed residents to eliminate standing water on their properties in order to reduce breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
(It was reported in November a top-ranking professional surfer died from dengue fever picked up when traveling for surfing competitions, but he did not contract it in Florida.)
Image Credit: Marc Averette