Tropical Fever Fears in Florida

Dengue fever cases seen in Florida as Central America battles big outbreak

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Dengue fever affects millions of people each year in the world's tropics and sub-tropics. The US isn't usually at much of a risk, but Florida has seen several cases so far this year.

The state of Florida has reported four human infections with dengue, which is spread by mosquitos. 

Farther south, in Central America, dengue case numbers and illnesses seem unusually high for the year, highlighting the potential for widespread harm that the virus holds.

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is encouraging the public to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

"Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitos out."

According to FDOH, four locally-acquired cases have now been discovered in Florida. Two patients live in Martin County (on the southeastern coast), one in St. Lucie County (just to the north of Martin) and one in Miami-Dade County (farther to the south of Florida).

It has been determined that the patient from St. Lucie County was likely exposed to dengue while in Martin County.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dengue causes as many as 100 million infections around the globe each year. However, cases discovered in the US are usually seen in people who were exposed to the disease while traveling, not in locally-acquired cases like those reported in Florida.

Meanwhile, south of Florida, in Central America, large numbers of dengue fever cases have been reported in 2013. 

According to The Guardian, 120,000 cases, including 60 deaths, have been reported so far from Costa Rica to Honduras. 

According to CDC, most people with dengue experience high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint, muscle and bone pain, rash and mild bleeding (like nose bleeds or easy bruising).

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), a more severe form of the disease, can occur. CDC reported that when treated promptly, DHF tends to be fatal in less than 1 percent of cases. But if the disease goes unrecognized and not treated quickly, DHF can cause death.

Because of the possibility for serious illness, Florida officials are urging caution among residents.

"In the Western Hemisphere, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main transmitter of dengue viruses. In some cases, the Aedes albopictus mosquito has also transmitted the disease," explained FDOH. "Both of these mosquitoes are found in large numbers in Martin and St. Lucie Counties."

FDOH recommended that people take steps to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using mosquito repellant and emptying standing water from around homes to help prevent mosquitos from multiplying.

"Mosquito Control in Martin County is continuing to inspect and treat properties in the affected areas," FDOH reported.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2013
Last Updated:
August 28, 2013