Loyola infectious disease physician tells how to protect yourself, family from the dengue fever outbreak in the Sunshine State
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- If you're planning to vacation in Florida this summer, you might want to take care that you donât return with something more serious than a cute pair of Mickey Mouse ears.
After 75 years of absence, dengue fever has returned to certain parts of the Sunshine State and dozens of cases have been reported this year. Also known as break-bone fever, dengue is a mosquito-borne, tropical disease that afflicts 100 million people worldwide annually.
"Dengue fever is transmitted by Aedes mosquitos, which are present in the U.S.," said Dr. Bert Lopansri, medical director of the Loyola University Health System International Medicine and Traveler's Immunization Clinic. "These are domesticated mosquitoes that breed in still waters around homes, such as potted plant dishes, vases, bird baths, etc. Draining these water sources is an important measure to prevent infection."
Symptoms of dengue fever include a high fever, severe headache with pain behind the eyes, a rash and pain in bones and joints, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incubation period after infection is about four days. There is no vaccine for dengue and physicians mainly concentrate on relieving symptoms. Each year about 25,000 people die from dengue infections.
There are four strains of dengue, Lopansri said. Infections vary in severity. The risk of developing the severest complications, though low, increases when a person is infected a second time by a different strain of dengue.
"Dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome are complications of concern," Lopansri said.
Since dengue doesn't spread from person to person, you can take simple steps to protect yourself from infection, Lopansri said.
"Mosquitoes that transmit dengue feed during the day, mostly during the early morning and late afternoon. Protective measures include wearing clothing that protects all of your body from bites, if at all possible," Lopansri said. "Also be sure to use mosquito repellant with effective chemicals such as DEET."
Lopansri said that most people who vacation in Florida have very little to worry about from the dengue fever.
"The situation in Florida is evolving and seems to be localized in South Florida at this time," Lopansri said. "For those who are a little concerned about it, just do the things you would normally do to avoid mosquitoes, and then have a good time."