Dengue outbreak slowing, with one case in last month

Mosquito control inspectors began handing out refrigerator magnets this week to homeowners up and down the Keys that remind people to take precautionary measures. Pictured from left are Chad Huff, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District public information officer; Tim Morrill, FKMCD Lower Keys inspector; Angela Giaquinto, epidemiologist for the health department; and Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director for the health department. ALISON KERR/Florida Health Department

A dengue outbreak in the Upper Keys appears to be improving, despite one case recently confirmed by the Florida Health Department. 

The case confirmed by the health department on Sept. 17 brings the total infected number to 56 since the outbreak began in mid-June. Health officials say the recent infection was locally acquired. The individual has received medical treatment and is expected to make a full recovery, as have the other 55 cases.  

New cases have slowed in recent weeks and the past month. The last confirmed case was a month earlier on Aug. 17. FKMCD is seeing fewer Aedes aegypti mosquitoes being trapped. 

The health department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection continues to conduct epidemiological studies to determine the origin and extent of these infections. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District continues as normal in and around Key Largo where the outbreak has centered. 

“Door to door inspections, enhanced mosquito surveillance, ground and aerial larvicide and adulticide treatments as necessary until the situation stabilizes completely,” said Chad Huff, public information officer with FKMCD.

Dengue fever is not contagious but is transmitted by the bite of an infected aedes aegypti mosquito. CONTRIBUTED

Inspectors have gone door-to-door to treat properties to prevent breeding. In addition, truck and  aerial adulticide and larvicide treatments were conducted throughout the areas of concern to reduce the mosquito population, and hand foggers were used in certain areas. Mosquito traps are placed in the area to monitor the Aedes aegypti population. Collected mosquitoes are tested for mosquito-borne diseases.

“The actions taken by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and the community prove to be promising. Recent dengue transmission in the Upper Keys has been limited, with new cases, hopefully, on the decline,” Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, said last month. “It’s important for residents to continue following basic mosquito bite prevention methods to help end the outbreak.”

Dengue fever is not contagious but is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Dengue can present as a severe flu-like illness with severe muscle aches and pain, fever and sometimes a rash. Usually, there are no respiratory symptoms. Symptoms of dengue will appear within 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Beginning this week, Huff said FKMCD inspectors began handing out refrigerator magnets to homeowners up and down the Keys that remind people to take precautionary measures. The magnets are a joint project between the health department and FKMCD.

“Dump Dengue” magnets like these are being handed to homeowners. CONTRIBUTED

“The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County deserves ample credit for this handy reminder that serves as another valuable tool in this very important fight,” Huff said.

Measures for preventing mosquito-borne disease include intact windows and screens and the use of air conditioning, keeping the area around your residence and business free from containers that collect water, wearing protective clothing, appropriate use of insect repellents after applying sunscreen, regularly spraying out outdoor plants such as bromeliads and crotons, and draining all standing water at least once per week.

For more information or to make a service request, contact FKMCD at 305-292-7190. Visit 

tinyurl.com/mosquitosurveillance for more information about the status of dengue in the Florida Keys.

Ground and aerial adulticide and larvicide treatments were conducted throughout the areas of concern to reduce the mosquito population. FKMCD/Contributed

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.