How to protect yourself from contracting dengue fever

First locally-acquired case in Miami-Dade County confirmed by health officials

By Saira Anwer - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Health has confirmed the first locally-acquired case of dengue this year in Miami-Dade County and is letting people know what they need to do to protect themselves from the virus.

Spread through the female Aedes aegypti mosquito -- the same one known for spreading the Zika virus -- the mosquitoes are now a concern for their potential to infect South Floridians with dengue.

"It incapacitates the person very much (for) up to two or three weeks," said Dr. Alvaro Mejia-Echeverry, a medical epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health. 

Mejia Echeverry said dengue is a fever illness that's often mistaken for the flu. 

"The person really has to go to the doctor and some tests have to be ordered. In some occasions, they need to be hospitalized," he said. 

Officials from the Florida Department of Health are advising Floridians to drain and cover.

That means draining any standing water around homes, covering exposed skin, using a mosquito repellent and making sure doors and windows have screens that mosquitoes can't get through.

"Even though the mosquito control actions that are performed here are very effective, there are always opportunities for mosquitoes to bite and transmit," Mejia Echeverry said. 

Here is a list of tips on how to prevent mosquito bites:
•    Wear shoes and socks.
•    Wear long pants and long sleeves.
•    Use repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and/or IR3535.
•    Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing, but not under clothing. 
•    Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
•    Use age-appropriate repellent. Do not use repellents with oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under the age of 3 years. DEET is not recommended for babies under 2 months old. 
•    Do not apply repellent on children's hands. 

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County officials said they're prepared for any challenges that may arise from mosquito-borne illnesses.

"We enacted our protocol. We have a set protocol, including inspections (and) removing larvae," said Dr. William Petrie, director of Miami-Dade County's Mosquito Control Division.   

The county is equipped with environmental technicians and equipment to spray a chemical called BTI that Petrie says is safe for us but poisonous for mosquitoes. 

"And we can use this buffalo turbine to access breeding areas that are very difficult to get to, shoot it up in the air -- 80 feet, even 100 feet -- so we can get the product over obstacles, such as walls and trees," Petrie said.

The county's operations also include trapping mosquitoes, identifying them and then getting them tested to see if they're carrying diseases like dengue.

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