Florida Keys

Case of dengue fever found in Key West

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits dengue and Zika.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits dengue and Zika.

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County on Wednesday said it has received laboratory confirmation of a case of the dengue virus in Key West.

All indications are that the infection was locally acquired in the Southernmost City, the Health Department says. "This individual [a tourist who has already left the Keys] has received medical treatment and is currently recuperating," it said in a prepared statement.

The Health Department and state Division of Disease Control and Health Protection are conducting epidemiological studies to determine the origin and extent of infection. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is helping and "has intensified its mosquito control activities throughout Key West."

Dengue is a flu-like illness, with symptoms being severe muscle aches and pain, fever and sometimes a rash. Usually, there are no respiratory symptoms.

Dengue fever is not contagious; it's transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Key West experienced an outbreak in 2009 with 47 cases and saw another 65 cases in 2010 but none since.

Monroe County Health Department Director Bob Eadie said the tourist was staying in the area of Bayview Park, around Truman Avenue and Jose Marti Drive, basically the gateway to Old Town. "But this person was all over Key West on a daily basis."

He said the local and state agencies had known by Sunday they had a confirmed case following a second test of the bitten man's blood. The first test was last Tuesday or Wednesday, he said.

"Mosquito Control was already in place doing what it was doing," meaning more spraying. "Did it seem there was a risk that someone else would acquire it? No it didn't. We try to do it right rather than panic people."

He added, "We gave it a lot of thought, did that one day make a difference. It didn't seem it would really make any difference."

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the same one that carries the Zika virus, which has symptoms similar to dengue. Florida has seen more than 120 cases -- none in the Keys but more than 40 in Miami-Dade County, our neighbor to the north.

British insect-control firm Oxitec wants to release DNA-modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Lower Keys neighborhood of Key Haven as part of a pilot program. The modified mosquitoes' offspring wouldn't be able to reproduce, so in theory the entire population would ultimately get reduced. The company and Mosquito Control await federal approval.