Florida health officials have confirmed a locally acquired case of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Miami-Dade County. It is the first case of dengue this year.
Health officials did not identify the person who was infected or where in the county the infection took place, but issued a general warning for residents. They reiterated common mosquito protection steps residents should take year-round, including the draining of any standing water on properties, clearing debris and covering the skin with proper insect repellent and clothing.
“Dengue is more common in Central America, the northern parts of South America, and in some of the islands of the Caribbean,” says Sergio Segarra, M.D. , chief medical officer at Baptist Hospital of Miami . “It’s very rare to have dengue. That’s why I was very surprised to hear about the confirmed case here in Miami.”
(Watch now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Sergio Segarra, M.D., chief medical officer at Baptist Hospital of Miami, about dengue fever and symptoms that are different from those of the flu. Video by George Carvalho.)
Symptoms of dengue fever include severe headache (mostly behind the eyes), high fever, rash and severe muscle and joint pain. Some dengue cases can be life-threatening.
“Dengue is commonly known as ‘breakbone disease’ because you get such sever muscle aches and pains with dengue,” says Dr. Segarra. “A few days later, you’ll develop a fever.”
Several muscle aches and a rash are the primary symptoms that separate dengue from the much more common influenza virus, or the flu .
Dengue emerged as a worldwide problem the 1950s. Although dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, it is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC).
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Miami-Dade County is reminding residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take basic precautions to help limit exposure to the insects by remembering to “drain and cover” (see tips below).
“When the sun is setting, that’s when mosquitoes are most active,” says Dr. Segarra. “Wearing protective clothing is the best way to protect against mosquito bites.”
The DOH and the county’s Mosquito Control Division are continuing surveillance and mosquito prevention efforts. Although not common, several mosquito-borne dengue cases are reported in Florida each year in travelers who had previously visited areas where dengue is present, such as the Caribbean, Central and South America and Asia. Miami-Dade has reported 21 cases during the past decade, and Broward, four cases.
Dengue is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. There are no vaccines to prevent infection with the dengue virus and the most effective protective measures are those that avoid mosquito bites. When infected, prompt medical treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications and death, the CDC says.
Drain and Cover
To prevent the bite and spread of disease by mosquitoes, Miami-Dade mosquito control officials say remember to “drain and cover.”
Here are important steps you can take:
- Drain any standing irrigation or rain water that can collect in garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or other containers;
- Discard old items that aren’t being used and are storing water;
- Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls once or twice weekly;
- Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water;
- Maintain the water balance (pool chemistry) of swimming pools, and empty plastic swimming pools not in use;
- Check around faucets and air conditioner units, and repair leaks or puddles that remain for several days;
- Remove, drain or fill tree holes and stumps with mortar; Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days. Cut down weeds adjacent to home and in yards, and mow the lawn regularly;
- Wear socks, shoes, long pants and long sleeves when mosquitoes are active;
- Cover doors, windows, porches and patios with screens and clear gutters;
- Use repellent on bare skin; DEET at 20 to 30 percent concentration works well for most people when used according to label directions; Do not apply to infants