Dengue fever update: Health teams walking in Rio, Jensen Beach collecting dengue data

MARTIN COUNTY -- In response to a growing number of cases of dengue fever, five survey teams — each consisting of an interviewer and a phlebotomist — have started going door-to-door in parts of Rio and Jensen Beach talking with some residents and testing their blood.

The goal is to survey and get blood samples from about 300 people. Participants will be asked about a possible recent history of symptoms of dengue, activities that might expose them to mosquitoes and prior travel to areas where dengue is common.

About 700 residences have been randomly selected in the target area, which generally is the mainland Rio and Jensen Beach areas bordered by U.S. 1 to the west and the county line to the north.

The initiative is expected to last seven days and cost $40,000 to $50,000. A similar survey happened during a 2009 dengue outbreak in Key West.

"These results will provide the Department of Health information to expand and control prevention efforts," said Dr. Celeste Philip, interim deputy secretary with the Florida Department of Health.

There are 18 cases of locally acquired dengue fever in the Rio and Jensen Beach areas.

"All these people were exposed in the Rio/Jensen Beach area," said Bob Washam, environmental health director for the Florida Department of Health in Martin County. "They had no international travel."

Dengue fever, which is common in areas such as Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, is spread by mosquitoes, as opposed to person to person.

Sometimes travelers to areas where dengue is endemic can return with the disease, and then it can be transmitted by mosquito to another person. That's apparently what happened in a 2011 case in Martin County. Still, such cases here are very rare.

Karlette Peck, health officer with the Florida Department of Health in Martin County, said officials have found "no imported cases."

"Obviously, this started somehow, but at this point we have not identified an importation case like we did in 2011," Peck said.

Dengue symptoms can include high fever, pain behind the eyes, rash, mild bleeding from the gums and nose and bone and joint pain.

BLOOD CENTER ADVISORY

As a precautionary measure, OneBlood is temporarily suspending blood collection operations in Martin and St. Lucie counties until further notice, according to a news release.

"Safety of the blood supply is our No. 1 priority," said Dr. Rita Reik, chief medicaloOfficer for OneBlood. "We will resume blood collections in Martin and St. Lucie counties once it is determined the threat of dengue fever has been minimized."

Blood collections in other areas of OneBlood's service area remain operational, the release stated. The blood center urges people living in areas not impacted by dengue fever to continue donating.

MORE ABOUT DENGUE

Dengue fever is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. In the Western Hemisphere, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main transmitter of dengue viruses. In some cases, the Aedes albopictus mosquito also has transmitted the disease. Both of these mosquitoes are found in large numbers in Martin and St. Lucie counties. It is estimated that there are more than 100 million cases of dengue worldwide each year.

Mosquito Control in Martin County is continuing to inspect and treat properties in the affected areas.

The Florida Department of Health is advising the public to remain diligent in personal mosquito protection efforts. These include remembering to "Drain and Cover."

SYMPTOMS

--Some people may experience little to no symptoms.

--Most common: high fever, severe headache, joint and bone pain, rash

--Can include: pain behind the eyes, mild bleeding from the gums and nose

--People who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately.

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying

Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.

Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.

Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once or twice a week.

Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don't accumulate water.

Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

COVER skin with clothing or repellent

Clothing: Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.

Repellent: Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.

Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective.

Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house

Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

USE OF REPELLENTS

Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.

Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.

Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing.

In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the CDC, mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than 2 months old.

Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child's skin and clothing.

If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer's directions.

For more information on what repellent is right for you consider using the EPA search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products:

DOH continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, and dengue.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on mosquito-borne illnesses, visit DOH's website: http://bit.ly/1e9URxT

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