Miami-Dade County health officials on Friday warned residents to take precautions against mosquito-borne dengue fever, announcing this year’s first confirmed, locally acquired case in South Florida.
“Our message is: The mosquitoes are here. You have to drain and cover to protect yourselves,” said Dr. Alvaro Mejia-Echeverry, a medical epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health’s Miami-Dade office.
Tests verified that an 18-year-old man somewhere in the county came down with the illness after being bitten by a mosquito in South Florida, Mejia-Echeverry said.
“He did not report any travel history in the timeframe that we would consider to be important,” he said.
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The young man has fully recovered from his bout with dengue fever, health officials said.
Friday’s Miami-Dade announcement came one day after a Treasure Coast county issued an alert for dengue fever. Martin County, which put out an alert to residents on Thursday, confirmed three cases of the illness this week, with a fourth discovered in nearby St. Lucie County.
Dengue fever is a viral disease that infects up to 100 million people worldwide each year, primarily in Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa. There is no vaccine or specific medication to treat an infection of dengue fever, which is sometimes called break-bone fever because of the severe joint pain it can cause in extreme cases. Other symptoms include fever, severe headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and pressure behind the eyes. About 1 percent of cases develop complications that could be deadly, especially for young children and seniors.
To prevent the spread of the disease, Mejia-Echeverry said residents must be diligent in drain-and-cover strategies.
The draining part means eliminating standing water where mosquitoes can breed, such as in birdbaths, old tires and planting pots. Covering refers to placing screens over windows and doors, wearing clothing that protects skin and spraying insect repellant on exposed skin.
A handful of local dengue fever cases cropped up in Miami-Dade in 2010 and 2011; county officials reported last year’s first confirmed, locally acquired case in late September.
In 2009, dengue fever struck Key West for the first time in 73 years, infecting 27 people. The island chain reported 66 cases in 2011, prompting Florida Keys Mosquito Control to consider releasing genetically modified insects into the wild to decimate the disease-carrying population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
A similar campaign in the late 1990s helped eradicate the invasive Mediterranean fruit fly in Florida.