Advisories were in effect in Broward and Palm Beach counties Thursday after health department officials announced that a Miami Beach man had come down with a suspected case of locally-acquired dengue fever.
The announcement from the Miami-Dade Health Department follows word earlier this week of what was described as a small outbreak of the exotic, mosquito-borne disease in Key West.
That prompted a warning from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the disease, which can be serious and even fatal on rare occasions, could spread.
Candy Sims, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Health Department, said no suspected cases have been reported locally. “But we are on high alert and monitoring the situation,” she said.
Earlier this week, Harold Margolis, chief of CDC’s dengue branch, issued a report in which he said, “We’re concerned that if dengue gains a foothold in Key West, it will travel to other southern cities where the mosquito that transmits dengue is present, like Miami.”
Health officials urged people to keep covered up and use insect repellent as precautions.
A viral disease common to the southeastern United States and the tropics, dengue fever is not spread from person to person and is seldom fatal except to the very young and elderly with other health conditions, according to health department experts.
But this outbreak is serious enough that a specialist from the CDC recently gave classes in South Florida teaching doctors and hospital officials how to recognize the disease.
Symptoms include a high fever, severe headache, a rash, and pain in bones and joints, according to the CDC. More than 100 million cases of dengue occur every year worldwide.
The Miami Beach man who is suspected of contracting the disease has fully recovered, said Miami-Dade Health Department Director Lillian Rivera. “He is doing well,” she said.
A blood sample from the Miami Beach man is being tested by the state. If dengue is confirmed, it would be the first locally contracted case of the disease in Miami-Dade County in at least 45 years, said Rivera.
“This is not a cause for alarm; it is a cause for creating awareness that we live with mosquitoes and we need to protect ourselves,” she said.
In Palm Beach County, Health Department Director Alina Alonso sent a memo to county physicians and infection control specialists on June 30, urging “enhanced surveillance” for dengue after the Key West cases had been identified.
“It is of utmost importance that suspected cases of dengue are accurately and promptly diagnosed,” she wrote in the memo. “Recent travel history to the Caribbean, Central and South American countries, or Key West in a patient with the above symptoms may suggest a consideration of dengue in the differential diagnosis.”
In Key West, doctors have recorded 14 cases of dengue since April, following an outbreak of 27 cases last fall. Those cases were the first recorded in the continental United States since 1945.
More recently, epidemic dengue has become more common in the tropics and subtropics, including Puerto Rico.
But the Key West cases, said the CDC’s Margolis, “represent the re-emergence of dengue fever in Florida and elsewhere in the United States after 75 years.”
“These people had not travelled outside of Florida,” said Margolis is a statement, “so we need to determine if these cases are an isolated occurrence or if dengue has once again become endemic in the continental United States.”
It’s back, folks. With the Federal government sitting on its thumbs regarding illegal immigration, lots of other (formerly eradicated in the United States) diseases are going to be coming back, too.