West Nile Virus spreads in Panhandle; Dengue emerges in central Florida

By: - August 23, 2023 12:10 pm

The Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito is known as one of the many vectors responsible for spreading West Nile virus to humans through their bite. Photo credit: CDC/ James Gathany

The Florida Department of Health reported four cases of dengue fever and two cases of West Nile virus emerging in the state last week, according to the department’s newest arbovirus surveillance report.

One case of West Nile virus in each Escambia County and Bay County appeared last week in Florida’s Panhandle. The virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The case in Escambia last week is the third in the county this year, which is under a mosquito-borne illness alert.

The West Nile virus case in Bay County came from an asymptomatic positive blood donor, according to the arbovirus report. Although there is no vaccine to prevent the virus nor medicine to treat it, eight out of 10 people who contract West Nile virus don’t develop symptoms, according to the CDC. Those who do develop symptoms experience fever with headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash.

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus to humans and other animals after biting infected birds. Almost 40 chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus antibodies this year. Most of them are around the Panhandle, according to the arbovirus report.

Meanwhile, dengue continues to spread in and outside Miami-Dade County in South Florida. Two of the four cases reported last week emerged in Miami-Dade, and the other two came from Polk and Hardee counties. Polk is in Central Florida and Hardee is South Central Florida. Unlike Broward County, which had two cases earlier this month, Polk and Hardee do not border Miami-Dade.

So far this year, 15 people contracted dengue in Florida.

Last week, the health department reported 20 dengue cases in people who had traveled abroad.

Out of the 224 travel-associated cases since the beginning of the year, around 70% came from people who had traveled to Cuba.

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Jackie Llanos
Jackie Llanos

Jackie is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media and Virginia Mercury.