Florida Keys sees its first outbreak of Dengue Fever in 10 years as health department confirms 16 people have been infected
- More than a dozen cases of dengue fever have been reported in the Florida Keys
- Dengue-carrying mosquitoes primarily feed on humans and rarely travel more than 200 yards away from their breeding habitat near homes
- Symptoms typically start with severe, flu-like symptoms, headache or muscle and joint pain
Sixteen cases of Dengue fever have been confirmed in the Florida Keys, according to health officials.
The first infection was documented in March of this year but since that time a further 15 people have been infected, mainly in June.
It’s the first outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in 10 years.
Dengue-carrying mosquitoes primarily feed on humans and rarely travel more than 200 yards away from their breeding habitat near homes
The cases all appear to have been located in a two-mile area of Key Largo according to the Florida Department of Health.
The last time there was an outbreak in the region was more than a decade ago when there were 47 cases of Dengue fever in 2009, followed by 65 cases in 2010.
The health department say that no one in the Keys has died from Dengue this year and all those who contracted it are expected to make a full recover.
The illness is potentially deadly. Symptoms includes severe muscle aches and pain, fever and a rash. They typically appear within 10 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
More than a dozen cases of dengue fever have been reported in the Florida Keys (file photo of a jetty in Marathon, Florida Keys)
Florida regulators have approved a plan to release 750million genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Monroe County as part of a testing to control mosquito populations
WHAT IS DENGUE FEVER?
Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes.
It is caught by people visiting or living in Asia, the Caribbean, and North, South or Central America.
Mosquitoes in the UK do not spread the virus.
In most cases, the infection is mild and passes in around a week.
Symptoms usually include:
- Severe headache
- Pain behind the eyes
- Muscle and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Widespread rash
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
There is no cure or specific treatment.
Patients can relieve their symptoms via painkillers, staying hydrated and resting.
In rare cases, dengue symptoms can develop into severe dengue.
Elderly patients, or those with other medical conditions, are most at risk.
Severe dengue fever symptoms can include:
- Severe skin bleeding with spots of blood on and under the skin
- Blood in the urine and stools
- Respiratory distress – when the lungs cannot provide the vital organs with enough oxygen
- Organ failure
- Changes in mental state and unconsciousness
- Dangerously low blood pressure
Severe dengue is usually treated via a blood and platelet transfusion, IV fluids for rehydration and oxygen therapy if levels are low.
The virus is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carried the virus for yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya.
Health officials are urging people to take precautions to limit exposure to mosquitoes.
This includes cleaning gutters, using window screens and air conditioning as well as emptying containers that are filled with water such as pots, buckets, trash cans and pet bowls.
‘The health department in Monroe and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District are working closely to continue surveillance and prevention efforts. Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is assisting with the investigation and has intensified its mosquito control activities,’ Alison Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, said in a statement.
Last month, state regulators in Florida approved a plan to release 750million genetically modified mosquitoes they hope could lessen the spread of disease.
Designed by the British biotech firm Oxitec, the mosquitos have been modified to pass on a particular protein when they mate, which ensures female offspring don’t survive the next generation.
With fewer females in each subsequent generation, the researchers hope overall mosquito populations in the region will decrease along with transmission rates of disease passed through mosquito bites.
The modified mosquitoes – from the Aedes aegypti species – are all male and the company contends that because only female mosquitoes can bite, there is no risk to humans in releasing them.
The mosquitoes will be released Monroe County in southern Florida later this summer, and Oxitec says they will make a final decision on the location at the end of July.
The plan has been contentious, with some advocacy groups arguing the EPA hasn’t adequately researched the potential consequences of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild.
‘People here in Florida do not consent to the genetically engineered mosquitoes or to being human experiments,’ Barry Wray of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition said.
In June, a collection of environmental advocacy groups announced a plan to sue the EPA to stop the tests from going forward, alleging the agency had violated the Endangered Species Act by approving the project without sufficient vetting.
Jaydee Hanson of the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety described it as the equivalent of a ‘Jurassic Park experiment’ and claimed the EPA had ‘unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks.’
Developed by the British biotech firm Oxitec, the mosquitos contain a protein that lowers the chances of survival for female offspring, which could lead to a gradual decline in overall mosquito populations and reduce the spread of mosquito-born diseases