A disease that has not been acquired in Miami since the 1950s has just reappeared — Miami-Dade county has reported the first case of dengue fever in almost 60 years, and health officials are urging people to take extra care to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.
Dengue fever is a disease common in tropical and subtropical regions that is spread by mosquitos much like malaria, but originates from different species. The Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitos can be carriers of up to four different viruses which can trigger the disease. Unlike malaria, dengue fever is equally as common in urban areas as in rural areas — making it a primary danger in Miami and South Florida.
Signs of an infection can begin with mild symptoms but these can quickly develop into DHF (dengue hemorrhagic fever) and dengue shock syndrome. Miami-Dade county residents experiencing severe symptoms should seek medical professionals as soon as possible. If the infection is treated early, the fever is easy to remedy.
Mild dengue fever symptoms appear up to 7 days after the bite and typically disappear after a week. These can include aching joints and muscles, a rash on the body that may fade and reappear, high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, nausea, and vomiting.
The signs of dengue hemorrhagic fever may include all the above symptoms as well as bleeding gums, nosebleed, clammy skin, damaged lymph and blood vessels, black vomit and stool caused by internal bleeding, very sensitive stomach, small spots under the skin, and a weak pulse. These symptoms may start off mild and slowly become worse within several days. DHF can result in death if not treated early.
Dengue shock syndrome is the most severe form of the fever and can also result in death. Symptoms can include disorientation, sudden hypotension, severe stomach pain, continual intense vomiting, and blood vessels leaking fluid.
The signs and symptoms of this fever are similar to typhoid and malaria, and so it is very important that the disease is detected accurately and early. Most people who acquire a form of dengue fever recover within 2 weeks, but some individuals can suffer complications for months following the infection, including fatigue and depression.
There are no vaccines to prevent dengue fever nor any specific cures, so the best way to prevent infection is to prevent exposure to mosquitos or take extra precautions to lower your chances of being bitten. Here are some recommendations:
- Expose as little skin as you feel you can — wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. For additional protection, tuck pant legs into socks or shoes. Wearing a hat may also help.
- Use mosquito traps, insecticide-treated nets, and/or repellants with at least 10% concentration of DEET; but avoid using DEET on young children.
- Avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes — these are likely to attract mosquitos to your skin.
- Dawn, dusk, and early evening are the most likely times for a bite to occur, so avoid going outside at these times without protection.
- Reduce the likelihood of stagnant water accumulating in and around your property — turn buckets and other containers that may collect water over. Remove the water from plant pot plates, or avoid using them, and change the water in flower vases every other day (scrubbing and rinsing the inside of the vase). Avoid placing open containers anywhere near air conditioners (such as water-catching receptacles).
- Also, monitor outside property for leaves which may cause accumulation of water and create spawning pools for the Aedes mosquito.
Again, it is very important that dengue fever is detected and treated early, so if you or someone you know are experiencing any symptoms of mild dengue fever or the harsher forms of the disease you must be treated by trained medical professionals.