mosquito-borne illness

Florida is up to 50 cases of Zika virus, including six in Central Florida.

  Gov. Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in five Florida counties with a dozen confirmed cases of the travel-acquired Zika virus: Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Lee and Santa Rosa.

Long before this most recent outbreak, mosquito control officers across Florida have been on the front lines, trying to keep at bay diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue. 

Mario Stevenson is a respected virus expert. He heads the infectious diseases division at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He’s done pioneering research on HIV.

But until last year he’d barely registered Zika.

“Four months ago,” Stevenson told me, “I thought Zika was an Italian football player.”

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Hillsborough County has confirmed its first case of West Nile Virus in a human this year.

The FDA is considering whether to approve the experimental use of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys to help stop the spread of dengue fever and other diseases. Mosquito control officials in the region say they hope to get approval to begin releasing the insects in the Keys as soon as this spring.

There are few places in the United States where mosquito control is as critical as the Florida Keys. In this southernmost county of the continental U.S., mosquitoes are a year-round public health problem and controlling them is a top priority.

Most of us will remember 2014 as the year Ebola came to the U.S. But another virus made its debut in the Western Hemisphere. And unlike Ebola, it's not leaving anytime soon.

The virus is called chikungunya: You pronounce it a bit like "chicken-goon-ya."

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An excruciating mosquito-borne illness that arrived less than a year ago in the Americas is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, and infecting more than 1 million people. Some cases already have emerged in the United States.

While the disease, called chikungunya, usually is not fatal, the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals, cut economic productivity and caused its sufferers days of pain and misery. And the count of victims is soaring.

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Health officials say a mosquito-borne illness that had afflicted Floridians who traveled to the Caribbean has now been transmitted within the state.

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported the first locally acquired cases of Chikungunya. A 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County are out of the hospital and recovering from the illness, which is serious but rarely fatal.

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Health officials say a 50-year-old Miami-Dade County woman is the state's first case of locally acquired dengue fever so far this year.

The Florida Department of Health's administrator in Miami-Dade County said Wednesday that the woman has fully recovered.

The dengue fever virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. Its symptoms include high fevers and severe muscle and joint pain. There's no specific medication or vaccine.

Dengue fever is widespread in other parts of the world, but local officials hope to contain it whenever it appears in the U.S.

As chikungunya fever sweeps through Haiti, forcing school, workplace and even  hospital closures because so many people are sick, public health officials say Florida needs to be on the lookout.
Dr. Vincent DeGennaro Jr., director of internal medicine at a hospital in Port-au-Prince, said half his staff  has already had the virus and he expects to get it too," the Miami Herald reports. "It's unbelievable how it's spreading," he said.

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JENSEN BEACH, FLA. — State health officials have lifted a dengue fever advisory in Martin County. 

No new cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been reported in the Rio-Jensen Beach area since September. Health officials lifted the advisory on Tuesday.

Over a five-month period, 22 people in the area developed the signs of the illness, which include high fever and aching bones.

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