Dengue fever has made it to Miami-Dade

August 16 – What began as travel-related cases of dengue fever from Cuba in Miami-Dade County now has three locally-transmitted cases.

Dengue fever comes from mosquitos.

Phil Goodman, commissioner of District 2 and board chair of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about the control of mosquitos.

A total of 172 cases of traveled-related dengue fever have been reported in Florida.

Goodman said, “Cuba’s having a major epidemic for dengue fever. It’s affecting almost the whole island, all of the provinces.”

Of the Florida cases, more than 100 of them are in Miami-Dade.

The third locally-transmitted case of dengue fever was reported yesterday in Miami-Dade County.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, rash, aches and pains. It’s relatively easy to confuse it with other types of illnesses and there isn’t a treatment or vaccine for it.

Goodman said, “The best way to control the disease is to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito.”

There are four different types of the fever. Type 1 is more like the flu. Once you get Type 1, if you are bitten again at any time in your life, then you have a greater chance of getting severe dengue fever and the mortality rate is much higher.

Goodman said, “That’s what’s happening in Cuba right now. They’ve got all four types of dengue that’s widespread.”

There are a lot of people in the hospital in Cuba and thousands of cases.

Mosquito control is critical in the Keys and the Mosquito Control District has done pretty well at keeping the Aedes aegypti mosquito population down. Because of that, the chances of getting a serious outbreak of dengue fever here is relatively low.

Goodman said, “Right now we’re being very vigilant. When the health department notifies us – and all of these are from Cuba, all the ones in the Keys are from Cuba – we go immediately into action in the neighborhood with special procedures to try to just kill every mosquito in the area and we really hit it hard and continue that until we see that this is under control.”

So far there have been no locally-transmitted cases in the Keys, but the residents are asked to remain diligent to dump out standing water on the property to keep the mosquito population low.

Goodman said, “It’s very much rain dependent, too. We had a lot of rain in June. July was much drier.”

Three, four or five days of wind and rain making spraying for mosquitos difficult is all it would take to change the population numbers.

That’s why the Oxitec project is so important to try to control the mosquitos without chemicals. It’s a project that created a self-limiting gene in mosquitos that disrupts the proper functioning of the insects’ cells by over-producing a protein in them, interfering with the cells’ ability to produce other essential

proteins needed for development. So by disrupting the insect’s normal development, the gene

prevents the insect from surviving to adulthood.

Since the self-limiting gene works by using the insect’s own biology against itself, the control

method provides a solution that only affects that particular species of pest without introducing

harmful toxins.

So far it seems to be working quite well.

Goodman said, “Overall the trials are running well. We see the numbers of Aedes aegypti really being reduced significantly. It’ll take a long time to assimilate the data and determine exactly how well we did this year, but so far it’s looking very promising for us.”

The next Oxitec webinar for residents to find out more details will be on August 23 at 5 p.m. To register for the webinar, click here:

Last month’s webinar focused on climate and how climate change, like sea level rise, can affect the mosquito population.

The Oxitec project is being watched by more people than those in the Keys. If it is deemed successful here, it will get more widespread usage.

Brazil was the first country to give Oxitec commercialization.

Goodman explained, “Brazil is the number one country in the world for dengue fever. They have more cases and more deaths every year than anyone.”

Indeed some reports have shown Brazil to have 1.8 million cases of dengue fever annually.

Goodman said, “We need the whole world to really increase this activity to help the rest of the world. It’s an international problem with international solutions.”

The Oxitec project does not cost the residents of the Keys a dime.  

The overall budget for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is looking at possibly raising taxes to purchase a new helicopter.

Chemical costs to control Aedes aegypti may go up as well.

Budget meetings will be held in September.