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Too Soon to Tell Whether Dengue Fever Will Spread in U.S.
Date:8/2/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Two more cases of dengue fever were reported by health officials in Florida this week, bringing the total to 46 confirmed cases since last September, but a top government health official said it's too early to say whether the mosquito-borne tropical disease is gaining a foothold in the United States.

"We don't know how dengue got to Key West, and whether or not it's endemic," said Harold Margolis, chief of the dengue branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in San Juan, P.R. "It's only going to play out as we watch to see what happens during this warm, wet period of time, which is when dengue is at its peak," he added.

"That's the problem with a disease like this," Margolis said. "You have to watch it but, at the same time, you also have to try to control it."

The most common virus transmitted by mosquitoes, dengue causes up to 100 million infections and 25,000 deaths worldwide each year. The disease is found mostly in tropical climates, and many parts of the world, including Central and South America and the Caribbean, are currently experiencing epidemics. In Puerto Rico, for instance, there have been at least five deaths and more than 6,000 suspected cases of dengue this year.

Margolis said it's possible that the Florida outbreak is an isolated incident. "We've seen this happen in other parts of the world, such as in northern Australia, where travelers return with the infection and introduce dengue, it spreads for a period of time, and then it goes away," he said.

In the United States, a smattering of locally acquired cases in Texas have been reported since 1980, and all of them have coincided with large outbreaks in neighboring Mexican cities. The last dengue outbreak in Florida was 75 years ago, according to the CDC.

The disease typically causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, headache, and a
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