After contracting dengue fever — a serious, if not necessarily fatal, virus transmitted through mosquito bites — your body temperature skyrockets, you become nauseous, and your head starts to pound. Your joints swell, and excruciating pain stabs through your body when you try to move. Then, a few days after the fever starts, a spotted, red rash pockmarks your body.
After a dengue outbreak in Key West sickened 88 people in 2009 and 2010, health officials feared local mosquitoes were now carrying the virus. But the number of people who catch dengue in Florida each year has decreased steadily since: While 24 cases were reported after an outbreak in Martin County in 2013, only seven were reported the following year, and just one was reported for all of 2015, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The year's only case, however, was just reported in Broward County.
A little more than a week ago, the state health department, in a mosquito-borne-illness update that it sends out regularly, reported that a Broward resident caught the first case of dengue fever from Florida mosquitoes earlier this year. Details as to exactly when, where, and how said person contracted the disease are scarce — Candy Sims, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, told New Times that the department does not discuss specific cases but did say the department was notified of the case in October.
After finding out the disease was, in fact, dengue, Sims said the department sprayed the area around the infected person's house — and laid down bait traps — to protect it from mosquitoes. The infected person's neighbors were also identified and warned about the disease, she said.
Elsewhere, in the developing world, the virus remains a massive public health issue. According to the World Health Organization, up to 50 million people are infected each year, and the number of infections has increased 30-fold since 1960. In rare instances, those who catch dengue may hemorrhage blood.
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According to the health department, 71 Americans caught dengue while traveling to other countries this year.
Until World War II, the virus was commonly found across America, but after a massive public effort to eliminate malaria in the United States after the war, dengue vanished as well. Before the 2009 Key West outbreak, there had been no reported cases of dengue transmission in Florida since 1934.
But the type of mosquito that carries dengue — Aedes aegypti — seems to be showing up in larger numbers around the country each year. After the August 2013 outbreak in Martin County, the health department found that certain cities in the county, like Jensen Beach, were swimming with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. By September, those mosquitoes had been virtually eliminated from the town.
The Department of Health "would like to remind residents to drain all sources of standing water, cover with clothing when outside during times mosquitoes are active, and use repellants containing DEET," Sims said in an email.