Taking the Bite Out of Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Summer isn’t summer without safety warnings about mosquito bites and possible diseases carried by bugs. Mosquito-borne illnesses are spread when an infected person is bitten by a mosquito, and that same insect later bites others.

Mosquito-borne diseases include:

Last year, there were several cases of chikungunya in Florida. Dengue fever is also an annual concern. “Several cases are reported in Florida each year in travelers to areas where the disease is present. These imported cases are usually from dengue endemic regions such as the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Asia,” according to the Florida Department of Health.

The State Health Department tracks “imported” and locally contracted cases of different diseases. Imported cases are those in which Florida residents are infected during international trips. Locally contracted cases develop when someone is infected within the state.

Who’s at Risk?

Young babies (especially newborns) and adults, age 65 and older, face greater risks of developing severe cases when exposed to mosquito-borne diseases, says Sergio Segarra, M.D., chief of Emergency Medicine at Baptist Hospital of Miami.

Others at risk include cancer patients, people who are HIV-positive, and others with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Prevention Tips

During mosquito season, prevention is the best cure, according to medical experts.

“Take away the breeding spots for mosquitoes, especially stagnant water,” Dr. Segarra says. “As part of your hurricane preparations, look for areas where water can collect and keep your gutters clear.”

The Health Department recommends emptying rain or stagnant water from the following containers:

  • Pool covers.
  • Flower pots.
  • Pools toys.
  • Garbage cans.

Check window screens, and stock up on mosquito nets. Remember to wear long sleeves, socks and pants when outdoors at dusk. State Health officials recommend repellant sprays or lotions with DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535 or picaridin. Follow product directions, and avoid using repellents on young children, especially babies who are under two months. (Mosquito netting can help protect infants.)

Symptoms to Watch
  • West Nile and Dengue: Flu-like symptoms are common, including aches, fever and pain. Encephalitis meningitis —inflammation of the brain — develops in less than 1 percent of those infected. Encephalitis can lead to paralysis, coma or death, Dr. Segarra says.
  • Chikungunya: Symptoms develop three to seven days after a bite from an infected bug, according to the Health Department. Signs include severe joint pain and swelling, (especially in the feet and hands), fever, muscle pain, rash and headache.

“Chikungunya fever does not often result in death, but some individuals may experience persistent joint pain,” the Florida Department of Health stated. “There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent chikungunya fever. If you feel that you may have contracted chikungunya, [or some other disease] see your healthcare provider.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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