STUART, Fla. - Martin County health officials said Thursday morning there are now 18 confirmed cases of dengue fever. They said all were exposed in the Rio, Jensen Beach area and had no international travel. They include 11 Martin County residents, 2 out-of-state visitors, 1 Palm Beach County resident and 4 St. Lucie County residents. The out-of-county residents were visitors to Martin County.
County officials said they have never seen an outbreak of dengue fever like what they've experienced this summer.
Residents who live in Rio or Jensen Beach might receive a knock on the door starting Friday from health officials wanting to take residents' blood.
"Teams from the Florida Department of Health and Martin County Mosquito Control will begin visiting homes in the Rio and Jensen Beach area tomorrow," said Dr. Karlette Peck, Health Officer, Florida Department of Health in Martin County. "This important door to door effort will be conducted for approximately a week in order to provide prevention information, a risk assessment survey and with the resident's consent, draw blood for dengue testing."
A similar survey was conducted in Key West during the 2009 outbreak there, which provided valuable data for prevention and control.
On Thursday, residents in the Rio and Jensen Beach areas will receive a Reverse 911 call with information about the survey and dengue prevention tips.
Health officials say dengue fever is typically contracted by people in other countries. You can catch the disease by being bitten by a mosquito carrying dengue fever.
Health officials urge residents to be proactive when protecting themselves from mosquitoes. They say it's important to wear mosquito repellent, along with long sleeved shirts and pants when you're outside.
Mosquito control experts say it's also crucial you get rid of standing water in your yard. They say standing water is where this type of mosquito breeds.
Due to the dengue fever outbreak, a local blood bank is temporarily putting a halt on donations. Employees at OneBlood say the agency will not take anymore donations in Martin or St. Lucie counties until the threat of Dengue fever has been minimized.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as many as 100 million people are infected yearly.
Symptoms of dengue fever include headache, high fever, and joint pain that usually last about a week.