Area on alert for mosquito-borne dengue fever
South Florida, including Key Biscayne, is under alert as cases of dengue fever have popped up in Miami and Dade and Broward counties.
Three cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been confirmed in Miami-Dade residents, according to the Florida Department of Health-Miami-Dade. That brings to eight the local cases this year.
And Broward County recently experienced its first case of dengue fever for 2019.
State health officials urge residents to protect themselves from mosquitos by using the “drain and cover” system: Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters and flowerpots; and use tarps to protect boats and vehicles from rain.
“Wear long-sleeved clothing, long pants, shoes and socks and not sandals,” said Yoel Guiterrez, owner of Mosquito Joe of Miami. “It’s hard with the heat and humidity, but that’s one of the give and takes.”
Dengue is a virus spread through bites from the Aedes mosquito, which can also spread chikungunya and Zika virus and yellow fever. Most people infected with dengue have mild or no symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms are generally impacted for a week.
The common symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of fever, severe headache, eye pain, muscle and joint pain (giving the disease the nickname “breakbone fever”), and bleeding, according to the DOH. Severe dengue can occur resulting in shock, internal bleeding, and death.
Latin America and the Caribbean is currently experiencing an epidemic cycle of the disease after two years of low incidence, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
During the first seven months of 2019, more than two million people contracted the disease and 723 died, according to the latest PAHO epidemiological update, published August 9. The number of cases exceeds the total number of cases reported in 2017 and 2018, although it remains lower than the number recorded in 2015-2016.
Residents can call 311 – the mosquito control line – to find someone to treat their property, Gutierrez said.
To help prevent mosquito bites, the Florida DOH advises applying mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing, adding repellents with DEET are effective. The DOH also advises using mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old, and sleeping under a mosquito net when outside or in an unscreened room.
“If it rains, preventative measures include dumping standing water,” Gutierrez said. “If you can’t dump it, treat it with larvicide – it’s a soil bacteria.
“Children’s toys and downspouts … collect water. Keep bushes and your lawn manicured and cut short. That’ll help reduce the amount of mosquitoes in the area. When you have an overgrown yard, you have places where things can hide. You can’t see it if it’s overgrown.”
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, remember to “Drain and Cover”
- Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
- Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.
- Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once or twice a week.
- Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
- Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use
Source: Florida Department of Health
What is dengue fever?
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease found worldwide. It is caused by four related dengue viruses (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, DEN-4) that are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever. Dengue infection is acquired through the bite of Aedes aegypti, but also Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, both of which are present in Florida.
What is dengue hemorrhagic fever?
Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a rare -- but more severe -- form of dengue infection that can be fatal if not treated quickly. The primary risk factor for hemorrhagic fever is previous infection with a different dengue serotype (i.e. getting DENV-2 if you have already DENV-1 puts you at increased risk of hemorrhagic fever).
Source: Florida Department of Health