More than one-third of the world’s population lives in an area at risk for transmission of dengue fever, but the Florida Keys haven’t traditionally been among them.
Dengue fever, a growing scourge in the tropics, has established itself in a popular American tourist destination, federal health officials reported last week.
Last August, an alert doctor in upstate New York realized that one of his patients, whose only recent travel had been to Key West, Fla., had dengue — a mosquito-borne virus that causes joint pain so severe it is nicknamed “break-bone fever” in Latin America and Asia. According to last week’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida health authorities have since found 27 more cases, all in Key West, the last in April. Most victims had a fever and pain in the head, body and eyes, and some had a rash.
The C.D.C. advised doctors to consider a dengue diagnosis in patients with similar symptoms who have been to subtropical parts of the United States. Although there have been outbreaks along the Texas-Mexico border since 1980, the disease had not been seen in Florida since 1934.
Unlike malaria, which is caused by a parasite, dengue is a virus, and there is no cure. Patients usually recover on their own. But in rare cases it can turn into dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal. Dengue cases have increased in the past 20 years in travelers returning from the Caribbean, South America and Asia, and people with the virus in their blood may transmit it to local mosquitoes. Now Florida has increased its mosquito-control measures. –NY Times