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Key West health officer responds to CDC dengue report

March 13, 2013|By Monte Morin
  • The female Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads the virus that causes dengue fever.
The female Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads the virus that causes dengue… (Associated Press )

A study published Wednesday on a dengue fever outbreak in Key West, Fla., has local health officials buzzing.

The paper, which was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appeared in their journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, confirmed that the mosquito-borne illness had indeed returned to the U.S. mainland after an absence of decades.

However, Monroe County Health Department Administrator Bob Eadie said the report may leave people with the mistaken impression that the dengue risk remains.

In fact, there have been no other reported cases of dengue fever since October  2010, he said.

"We put a whole lot of effort into trying to eradicate the disease and it showed results," Eadie said. "Unfortunately that kind of gets lost in the report."

The study focused on 93 dengue cases that were diagnosed in Florida in 2009 and 2010, and determined that fewer than a handful had originated in Key West. Although dengue is the world's most common mosquito-spread virus, it was eradicated in the continental U.S. more than 50 years ago.

Ever since that time, mainland residents have had to travel outside the country to be exposed to the disease.

Dengue, a flu-like illness that can at times be fatal, is spread by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, an insect that has evolved to live near humans.

Although Florida mosquito control officials are considering a plan to use genetically engineered insects to battle Aedes aegypti, Eadie noted that the pool of infected mosquitoes has already been reduced.

Eadie said abatement efforts included spraying and a public information campaign that targeted the elimination of standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

"You have to have a critical mass of mosquitoes to sustain transmission of the disease," Eadie said. "If you drive those numbers down, you can stop the spread. We saw good results."

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