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Antibody Testing Reveals More Keys Dengue Cases, Bringing Total To 37 This Year

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Antibody testing in the Key Largo area has identified another 11 cases of dengue fever, bringing the total this year to 37.

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The cases had onset dates from April 30 to July 10, according to the local office of the state Department of Health.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has increased efforts in the Key Largo area. Health officials say local residents should be especially careful to limit their exposure to the mosquitoes that can carry the disease.

That means making sure windows and screens are intact, wearing protecting clothing and using insect repellent.

It's also especially important to drain any standing water, where mosquitoes breed.

Many of the people who were eventually found to have dengue fever were tested for COVID-19, since "the overlap in symptoms can be easily confused," Alison Kerr from the Monroe office of the Department of Health wrote in an email.

Both illnesses can present fevers, aches and pains though the "break-bone fever" is associated with dengue. Respiratory symptoms are more consistent with COVID-19, Kerr wrote.

The dengue outbreak is the biggest in the Keys since 2009/2010. That outbreak was in Key West and led the to enter a partnership with Oxitec that could lead to the Keys becoming the first U.S. trial site for genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the kind that can transmit dengue and Zika.

The trial has received federal and state approval; the local Mosquito Control Board considered giving the final go-ahead last month but postponed the decision until Aug. 18.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.