Advisory: Mosquitoes & Dengue Fever
2 min. read
A local division of the Florida Department of Health has issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory for Miami-Dade County. The advisory follows a report about Miami-Dade County’s first confirmed case of locally transmitted dengue fever this year. Additionally, there are confirmed cases of the disease in the tri-county region just north of Palm Beach County. Given the wet, seasonal weather patterns—conducive to insects—local health authorities recommend that you protect your family from mosquitoes, which can be carriers of dengue fever and other diseases.
“Before, mosquitoes were just a bother for most people, and now there is a health issue with those little critters,” says John Braden, M.D., the medical director of emergency preparedness and security at Baptist Health.
Dengue fever is no stranger to South Florida. In the decades before most homes had air conditioning, reliable screens and other safety features, tropical illnesses such as dengue and yellow fever were more common in South Florida. Beginning in the 1930s, cases of dengue fever have declined. But the trend has reversed in the modern era due to increased international traveling and other global factors. In 2009, for example, there were 29 cases of dengue fever reported in Key West, according to NPR. But you can learn more about the disease and take steps to protect your family. Here are a few things Dr. Braden recommends you should know:
What is dengue fever?
Globally, there are roughly 100 million of cases of dengue fever each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness is caused by one of four dengue viruses. A mosquito infected with one of the dengue viruses can transmit the disease to you through a bite.
What are the symptoms?
Although not usually fatal, the most common form of dengue fever is very painful, Dr. Braden says. Symptoms include joint pain, general body aches, headaches, fever, dizziness and confusion.
“It’s like a super flu,” Dr. Braden says.
With the more dangerous, but rarer, form of dengue fever, a patient may cough up blood and become fatally ill. The fatal form of dengue fever has not yet been reported in Miami-Dade County. But even milder forms of the disease warrant caution, Dr. Braden says.
What can we do to protect ourselves?
Take precautions when you are outdoors. Steer clear of puddles and standing water, which attract and breed mosquitoes. The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County urges you to wear protective clothing, including socks, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Use bug repellents, but pay attention to application instructions, especially for small children, and avoid applying bug spray to children’s hands. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective, according to state health officials.
Bug sprays with the chemical DEET, however, are not recommended for infants two months and under. When outdoors, protect young babies with mosquito netting.
What about the home?
Look around your home and empty out any water that collects in buckets, empty flower pots, trash cans, pool covers and gutters around your home. Clear away outdoor clutter and unnecessary items that tend to collect water. Inspect windows and doors for broken screens, gaps and openings that could provide a welcome mat for mosquitoes.
Where can I get more details?
For more information, go to www.dadehealth.org. What’s more, you can find information about dengue fever in the Emergency Centers at Baptist Health hospitals and at Baptist Health urgent care facilities.
“Statistically most folks survive dengue fever, but you wouldn’t go looking for it,” Dr. Braden says.
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