Florida facing threat
from two mosquito-borne diseases
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[June 05, 2014] By
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) -
Two mosquito-borne diseases - dengue fever and
chikungunya - are posing a serious threat to Florida and
residents should take steps to control mosquito
populations to try to limit the danger, a leading health
expert said on Wednesday.
The Florida Department of Health, in its latest weekly report, said
that through last week dengue fever had been confirmed in 24 people
in Florida and chikungunya confirmed in 18 people. Both are viral
diseases spread by mosquito bites.
All of the infected people in Florida have traveled to the Caribbean
or South America and could have become infected there, according to
Walter Tabachnick, director of the Florida Medical Entomological
Laboratory in Vero Beach, which is part of the University of
Epidemiologists are worried that mosquitoes in Florida may have
picked up the diseases by biting infected people, which could kick
off an epidemic in the state, Tabachnick said.
"The threat is greater than I've seen in my lifetime," said
Tabachnick, who has worked in the field for 30 years.
"Sooner or later, our mosquitoes will pick it up and transmit it to
us. That is the imminent threat," he added.
Tabachnick urged the public to eliminate standing water including in
buckets and rain barrels where mosquitoes can breed. "If there is
public apathy and people don't clean up the yards, we're going to
have a problem," Tabachnick said.
Dengue is potentially fatal, and both diseases cause serious and
lingering symptoms. The most common symptoms of chikungunya
infection are fever and joint pain, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Tabachnick said the last statewide epidemics in Florida of dengue
occurred in the 1930s. Localized epidemics of dengue occurred in
2013 in a small neighborhood in Jensen Beach where 24 people were
infected, and in 2009 and 2010 in Key West where 28 people were
infected, according to state and federal reports.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency said this week that authorities
in 18 Caribbean countries or territories had reported more than
100,000 confirmed or suspected cases of chikungunya.
In the Dominican Republic, where health officials reported more than
53,000 suspected cases, hospitals in hard-hit areas are treating
hundreds of new patients per day.
(Additional reporting by Ezra Fieser in Santo Domingo; Editing by
David Adams and Will Dunham)
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