Dengue fever may be spreading northward

The Seminole and Orange County Health Departments in Florida have reported a locally acquired case of dengue fever in a mainland Florida resident. Previously, cases of locally acquired dengue in the United States were reported only from the vicinity of Key West.

Dengue is a tropical disease spread by a species of mosquito. There is no vaccine or specific treatment. Symptoms can include high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, and a rash. Some people exhibit no symptoms, but in a small number of cases dengue fever can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever and possible death. Prevention using mosquito repellants and nets appears to be the primary control strategy. Transmission requires the mosquito vector. Human to human transmission is not possible.

Given the very large number of Canadians that travel to Florida, the northward movement of the dengue mosquito and hence of the disease is likely to increase the number of Canadians who acquire the disease while traveling. This could eventually increase workplace absenteeism rates and health care costs.

One case is not enough to prove anything but models of the impacts of climate change indicate that northward movement of tropical disease is an anticipated risk factor.

See http://www.orchd.com/absolutenm/templates/westnile.aspx?articleid=419&zoneid=29 for more details.

Canadian government medical information about dengue fever is at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/info/dengue-eng.php and http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/09vol35/acs-dcc-2/index-eng.php

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