Miami – A person in Florida contracted dengue fever while traveling abroad and state health authorities urged residents to take measures to protect themselves against getting bitten by mosquitoes, which tend to reproduce more rapidly during the rainy season.
The confirmed case is the first to be registered this year in Marion County, in north-central Florida, the county health director, Dr. Nathan Grossman, said in a statement.
He said that the disease can be transmitted from one person to another by a mosquito that bites an already-infected person. The symptoms of dengue include headache, high fever, dizziness, confusion, intense pain in the joints and muscles, skin rash and light bleeding from the nose or gums.
The dengue virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and - according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - affects some 100 million people worldwide each year.
Grossman's office asked the county commission to authorize fumigation of areas of the county south of the city of Ocala.
"We have requested the mosquito spray as a precautionary measure. The risks of transmission from this mosquito-borne disease are very low, but as part of our mission to protect the health of Marion County citizens, we are taking additional steps to further reduce possible transmission," Grossman said.
Health authorities warned that there is no vaccine to prevent dengue and they reiterated that the best defense against the virus is avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes.
The best preventive measure "for residents living in areas infested with mosquitoes that carry a dengue virus is to eliminate the places where the mosquito lays her eggs, primarily artificial containers that hold water," the health department statement said.
Other measures include wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes if people are outside during times of day when the mosquitoes are most active.
A dengue outbreak occurred in Florida in 1935, when 15,000 residents of Miami-Dade County were infected.