While dengue fever is not an uncommon condition in the world, it is a very rare condition to develop while inside the US. But several cases of locally-acquired dengue fever have been discovered in Florida, and case numbers rose this week.
According to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Martin County, there now have been 15 infections discovered in southeastern Florida.
Health officials are urging the public to protect themselves from the bites of mosquitos, which carry and spread dengue viruses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dengue is a leading cause of illness and death in certain parts of the world (the tropics and subtropics), infecting as many as 100 million people a year.
When dengue is discovered in the US, it is usually found in people who became infected while traveling — but not so in these recent Florida cases. FDOH reported that the recent infections were acquired in the Rio and Jensen Beach area on Florida's eastern coast.
FDOH also noted, "The number of dengue cases in Florida travelers returning from the Caribbean, Central and South America is higher than normal." Travelers and affected residents alike should take care to protect themselves.
Symptoms of dengue include fever, severe headache, eye pain, muscle and joint paint, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea, explained FDOH. Symptoms usually show up three to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito and then linger for around four to seven days.
While dengue is a very unpleasant condition, symptoms usually go away without complications. But in some cases, a serious infection called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) can occur. DHF can be fatal if it is not recognized and treated quickly and correctly.
FDOH reported that the Martin County Mosquito Control is inspecting and treating properties in affected areas. But the department also stressed the importance of individuals taking steps to protect themselves.
"Drain standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying," said FDOH. This can include discarding old items where water may gather and emptying water when it gathers in trash cans or buckets. The department suggested emptying and cleaning birdbaths and pet's water bowls once or twice a week.
FDOH also recommended that people cover their skin with long clothing or with insect repellant.
"Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent," FDOH noted. "Some repellents are not suitable for children."