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

chy muscles, bones and joints. Symptoms typically begin about two to seven days after being bitten. "It's also called breakbone fever, because some people get really horrible, severe pains in their bones and joints," explained Dr. Bert Lopansri, medical director of the Loyola University Health System International Medicine and Traveler's Immunization Clinic, in Maywood, Ill. There is no cure or vaccine, and in most cases the illness resolves on its own within a couple of weeks.

Some people who contract the virus have relatively mild symptoms and may not even realize they've been exposed, according to the CDC. In fact, when health officials in Key West collected blood samples from 240 people in randomly selected households last year, they found that 5 percent had dengue active in their systems or had antibodies to the virus, suggesting that they'd been infected within the previous three months.

While dengue fever is not contagious, an infected person can act as a carrier and indirectly spread the disease to another person (and possibly a new location) if he or she gets bitten by another mosquito, which then bites and infects someone else.

There are four strains of dengue, and once you have been infected by one strain, you're at a greater risk of developing a more serious form of the disease if you're unlucky enough to get bitten by a mosquito infected with one of the other strains, Lopansri said.

In Key West, the vast majority of people infected with dengue have been residents rather than visitors, which is not surprising given the particular habits of the type of mosquito that transmits the virus, according to Margolis. Aedes mosquitoes tend to live around households, feed during the early morning and late afternoon, and breed in flowerpots and other small containers of water that people have around their houses, he said.

Nevertheless, Margolis cautioned travelers to educate themselves about where the disease is, and the best wa
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