TAMPA — Dengue fever can't be spread by one person directly to another. But in a fluke case reported Friday by Hillsborough County health officials, a Seminole Heights woman likely caught it — indirectly — from a member of her own household.
How? A mosquito likely bit a man who had been infected during a trip to the Caribbean, then bit the woman.
"That's our best guess," said Dave Atrubin, epidemiologist with the Hillsborough County Health Department.
Both the man and woman, whom health officials would not identify, had traveled recently to the Caribbean. The man, and another man on the same trip, contracted dengue fever while traveling. The woman was stricken weeks later, on Sept. 8, which is how health officials know she acquired it here.
"The normal incubation period is four to seven days," Atrubin said. "She had been back more than 20 days."
Atrubin said all three had mild cases of the disease and have recovered. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle aches, joint and bone pain and rash. There is no specific treatment for the disease; rather, an infected person is treated for the symptoms exhibited.
This is the first locally acquired dengue fever case in Hillsborough County in recent history, said Steve Huard, health department spokesman. Health officials in Miami-Dade County reported two locally acquired cases this year. Until relatively recently, however, it had been decades since a locally acquired case was reported in Florida.
Huard said Hillsborough County Mosquito Control will continue to inspect and treat the Seminole Heights area as needed.
Though health officials say it's unlikely more people will come down with dengue, it's not the only mosquito-borne illness in circulation. West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis are rare but have been reported.
That's why residents are being urged to take steps to keep the mosquito population down, such as emptying out any standing water around the home, avoiding outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active (dusk and dawn); and using DEET or other repellents containing picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
People who think they have acquired a mosquito-borne illness should contact their doctor.
Richard Martin can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3322.