Florida health officials have issued a health alert Friday as the number of confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne viral disease called Dengue Fever rose to 12.
One new case was just reported in Miami-Dade county, the others were in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Spread by infected Aedes mosquitoes that tend to bite their victim during the day rather than at night, symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of very high fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, backache, joint pains and a body rash. The pain can be so excruciating to the joints that the fever is sometimes called "breakbone" or "bonecrusher" fever. Symptoms tend to be milder in infants and young children and may include a rash that makes the illness clinically indistinguishable from measles or rubella.
The good news is the dengue fever is virtually never fatal. But dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) caused by the same mosquito can be fatal. Patients that develop DHF usually have symptoms that resemble classical dengue or other viral syndromes at first, then they become restless, lethargic, show signs of circulatory failure along with a variety of bleeding manifestations.
Although more often found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world like the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Southern China, and certain parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, the mosquitoes that cause dengue fever have become firmly established in Florida, especially in areas with deteriorated housing, inadequate sanitation and poor drainage.
According to the CDC, Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever disease is now found throughout central and southern US. From 1977 to 2004, there were almost 4000 suspected cases imported from outside the country. However experts feel that many more cases probably go unreported each year because surveillance in the US relies on doctors recognizing the disease, asking where the individual has traveled, getting proper samples to make the diagnosis and then reported the case to the CDC.
In 2009, a Key West outbreak affected 28 people. Until then, no cases of dengue had been seen in Florida for 40 years. Because there is still no vaccine to prevent infection with dengue the most effective protective measures are those that avoid conditions that that mosquito bites. The CDC is recommending everyone in South Florida use mosquito repellant when outdoors, and to wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
For more information on control and prevention of dengue fever.