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Cases of Dengue Fever Confirmed in Florida

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September 26, 2013

A number of cases of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever have been reported in Florida beginning at the end of August, prompting a public health alert by the Florida Department of Health. The cases were reported in the Martin, the St. Lucie, and the Miami-Dade counties and, as of September 18th, the count is at 20. It is believed that these infections were all acquired locally.

Dengue fever is rare in the U.S., mostly seen among travelers returning from parts of the world where dengue is endemic, such as tropical and subtropical areas in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. However, small outbreaks have occurred in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida; in 2009-2010, a dengue outbreak in Key West was reported affecting 28 people. Most dengue infections among U.S. citizens occur in residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Samoa and Guam.

Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine available or specific treatment other than for symptomatic relief. Many infected individuals will not develop symptoms or will have only a mild illness. For those who do develop symptoms, prognosis is still very good for full recovery within a few weeks. The most common initial symptoms are a sudden high fever and flu-like symptoms that appear roughly 4 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Additional symptoms may include severe headache, especially behind the eyes, muscle, bone and joint pain, and skin rash. However, some cases progress to a severe form of the illness, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), associated with nose bleeds, vomiting blood and passing blood in the stool, difficulty breathing, cold, clammy skin, and potentially fatal complications.

Someone who experiences a high fever within two weeks of travel to an area where dengue fever is endemic, or travels to or lives where current cases have been reported, should consult their health care provider to determine if testing would be appropriate. A blood sample may be used to detect the dengue virus itself or antibodies produced in response to dengue infection. Lab testing to confirm an infection caused by the dengue virus is important for individual diagnosis and in order to help authorities focus public awareness and mosquito control efforts.

Florida residents and anyone traveling to the counties where the recent cases have been reported are being encouraged to take preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites, such as using mosquito repellent, wearing protective clothing, and clearing any standing water outside their homes.

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used. To access online sources, copy and paste the URL into your browser.

NPR Health News. Dengue Fever Pops Up in Florida. August 26, 2013. Available online at through Accessed September 2013. 8 dengue cases detected in Florida. August 28, 2013. Available online at through Accessed September 2013.

CBS Miami. More Cases of Dengue Fever in South Florida. August 31, 2013. Available online at through Accessed September 2013. Dengue Fever hits southeastern Florida. September 1, 2013. Available online at through Accessed September 2013. Florida Treasure Coast dengue fever count now at 15. September 5, 2013. Available online at through Accessed September 2013.

Florida Arthropod-borne Disease Surveillance Program, Florida Department of Health. Available online at through Accessed September 2013.

Florida Department of Health. Press Release: Martin County Weekly Dengue Fever Update. Available online at through Accessed September 2013.