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Dengue Fever Appears in Miami After 50 Years

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

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72 comments

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12:41AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:43PM PST on Dec 4, 2010

thanx

10:37PM PST on Nov 23, 2010

I am a survivor of dengue fever that I contracted in my twenties while hiking forested mountains in the Caribbean many years ago. At first, doctors couldn't figure out what I had, and nothing seemed to work. After spending around 11 days in the hospital heavily medicated to the point of hallucinations, I finally got better. It took a lot of praying, will to recover, and excellent doctors, to make it back to health. But I learned a lesson; never take life for granted...it is a special gift.

12:37PM PST on Nov 22, 2010

Thanks

11:36AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

how horrible! It's scary how such a small animal can give so many problems to humans.

9:23AM PST on Nov 17, 2010

I like the suggestion about bats.

4:09AM PST on Nov 17, 2010

@peter clarke, yes it is much more serious than "just a bad fever" especially for people that already suffer from another disease, what a stupid thing to say, have you had it? dengue is worse than malaria, and yes, ppl need to keep standing water to a minimum, or not at all if possible. ships coming in from the south pacific can bring these into the west cost too, and yes, American Samoa (between Hawaii & New Zealand) doesn't have a malaria problem at all, they have dengue and ships run back and forth between there and the US almost daily! you need bats, American Samoa also has zillions of those as well. bats are not the answer in total.

10:09PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

thanks for the article. hope it doesn`t spread.

10:04PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Wow!! Scary.

9:14PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

It's interesting how many old, thought-to-be-extinct diseases seem to be making a come-back. I wonder if it might have something to do with all the increased use of antibacterial soaps and such that are killing the weaker viruses and bacteria, so that only the superbugs are surviving and starting to breed up to fill in the ecological niches by the weaker bugs that the antibacterial soaps have killed off....

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