With the incredible heat lately, be on the lookout for water and vector borne illnesses

Dr. Mark Whiteside, Medical Director of the Department of Health of Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about diseases affecting the county.

Waterborne diseases continue to affect the area.

Dr. Whiteside said, “These are diseases in general caused by ingestion, swallowing things that contaminate by breathing in certain toxins of certain things including the harmful algae can produce some toxins from basically any water source. Florida, since we’re basically surrounded by water, we’ve always had some issues with that.”

Sometimes kids want to swim in outside pools of water and that’s where ingestion can happen.

Dr. Whiteside said, “And then of course, inland lakes and rivers and ponds and things like that, especially, this hot weather we’ve been having, which is really unprecedented tends to make everything worse because food that’s left to sit out and stand out can get spoiled very quickly in humid, hot weather like this. Refrigeration is really a hallmark of civilization when you think about it. It makes life very livable and for most of us, so is air conditioning. Also be careful with things that that you drink. Purified, bottled, boiled water, filtered water down here is fine. Avoid anything raw, uncooked, especially that is left to sit out at all.”

Some symptoms for waterborne diseases include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain and includes the risk of dehydration.

Dr. Whiteside said, “Some of the waterborne toxins can produce toxins that can act on the neurologic system.”

For the toxins that are breathed in, people with chronic disease of the respiratory system should take particular care.  

Dr. Whiteside continued, “A number of infectious agents can cause this type of enteric disease like the norovirus, which causes bad problems on cruise ships at times, parasites, we see a fair amount of now of Giardia, things that you find the stool for parasites, especially in our refugee population. Bacteria like Salmonella or Salmonella Typhi causes typhoid. A lot of the treatment is symptomatic and fluid replacement. The bacterial causes of these disease can be course treated with antibiotics when indicated.”

Remember to wash your hands and drink bottled water for prevention.

Vaccines can also help.

Dr. Whiteside said, “We’ve had increased rates of hepatitis A in the state and that’s a very important vaccine if you haven’t had that. Here especially in this season with the beaches and especially the beaches that have been impacted, on both coasts at times from Red Tide, avoid places where there’s been a problem.

Vector borne diseases, like malaria is another issue in the state. Six cases were confirmed in Sarasota County recently.

Dr. Whitehead said, “Those are two of the most important diseases globally throughout the tropical world, malaria and dengue fever. Millions of cases, tens of thousands to millions of deaths in the case of malaria, primarily for malaria in Sub Saharan Africa among children, which is a really sad. Dengue is the one virus that’s insect transmitted by of course Aedes aegypti which breeds around the house, usually in containers. The control of dengue, of course, is control the vector by environmental means and getting rid of the containers and standing waters, not necessarily just killing mosquitoes. In the case of malaria, for the first time in a number of years, probably 20 years, we’ve had malaria transmitted in Florida. You have to understand that over a century ago, malaria was common in Florida. It wasn’t really until 1951 that it was formally eradicated from the state.”

Lyme disease is also a problem.

Dr. Whitehead said, “Lyme is caused by bacterium, mainly northeast and north central US, but we do have Lyme up in Florida. It’s we have a down here, it’s rare. Lyme is treatable, of course, with antibiotics, it’s bacterium.”

Prevention is the key.

Dr. Whitehead said, “What I like to say, because a lot of people don’t think about so simple an idea but the most important thing that keeps bugs off of us, blood sucking insects, like mosquitoes, off of us in South Florida, is really, our lifestyle. What I say intact windows and air conditioning, protective clothing, insect repellent, they’re appropriate in certain settings.”

Because the Aedes aegypti breeds within the home, it’s important to keep the home and yard clean and free of any containers that collect water.

Dr. Whitehead said, “The risk is I think even greater in this incredible heatwave we’re having so be extra careful. Make sure the food is properly prepared, cooked, and kept stored and refrigerated. Watch what you eat and drink.”

For more information, click here: https://monroe.floridahealth.gov/index.html