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Dengue Fever Cases Subside in Florida, But Threat Remains
Date:12/16/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- While the alarming re-emergence in 2009 and 2010 of mosquito-borne dengue fever in the continental United States seems to have subsided, that's no reason to believe the potentially deadly infection won't be back, experts warn.

The outbreak of the sometimes-excruciating viral illness centered on southern Florida. Now, researchers have issued an update on the situation for one locale in particular, Key West.

"We know now that Key West is a high-risk area for dengue and we could have ongoing dengue outbreaks again," said the report's lead author, Carina Blackmore, from the Florida Department of Health. However, if people use air conditioners and screens and stay inside during hot, muggy days there is little chance dengue will become endemic, she said.

Dengue remains a leading cause of illness and death in tropical areas but was largely thought to be absent from the United States since the 1950s.

However, in 2009, 27 people living in Key West came down with illness via locally acquired infections, and then 66 more residents contracted the illness in 2010, the researchers report. The outbreak seems to have eased since then, with no cases reported in 2011.

That doesn't mean that dengue is eliminated from the population, however, because around 75 percent of people infected never develop symptoms. Blackmore and her colleagues estimate, therefore, that about 5 percent of people living in Key West neighborhoods where cases occurred could be infected.

Because Key West has a large population of the type of mosquitoes that transmit dengue, called the "house mosquito," Blackmore's team decided to investigate the size of the outbreak there. They identified a number of cases and found that people who got dengue were less likely to use air conditioning, and they often had birdbaths or other types of containers where the mosquitoes could
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