New Yellow Fever Warning For South Florida
Florida health officials are concerned that the recent Zika scare could cause residents to “let their guards down” when it comes to a potential yellow fever spread.
The logic being that Zika never truly panned out to media hype, leaving many people to potentially feel a bit duped. In this case, yellow fever, a much deadlier illness, is thriving in Central and South America. People carrying yellow fever are likely to enter Florida this year. Florida is a naturally hospitable environment for yellow fever.
Mosquitos biting infected persons would then spread the illness to other persons in Florida, particularly the sub-tropical and tropical southern portions, which would prompt a potential yellow fever pandemic.
Brazil has seen 338 yellow fever deaths last July through this March.
Roughly 15 percent of people infected will have an initial dormant or minor stage of symptoms followed by a return of symptoms much more critical. Yellow skin and failure of the liver are potential life-threating symptoms of yellow fever in a more advanced stage.
The CDC is pushing vaccines for those who plan to travel to Brazil, where yellow fever is currently thriving.
“If yellow fever is introduced into South Florida, and I suppose it will be, you’re not going to see the same explosive outbreak we did with Zika,” said Justin Stoler, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Miami who has an expertise in mosquito-borne illnesses. “There hasn’t been prior exposure, but we’ve kept mosquito populations down, which is a good thing.”
Broward County, the county that houses Fort Lauderdale just north of Miami, has been spraying pesticides on roadsides since April 30th. The tropical rains have been especially intense this year which are likely to allow mosquitoes to breed much more rapidly. But that will be quite the battle as many residents don’t appreciate pesticide spraying in their communities. Additionally, the Florida rainy season is just now getting started and typically last well into October.
The particular mosquito that threatens South Florida is the infamous Aedes aegypti. They tend to bite at all hours, they love any instances of standing water, and they tend to stay near their home.
During the span of 2004 to 2016, there was only one case of yellow fever known in the United States. Philadelphia’s 1793 outbreak that killed several thousand ranks among one of the worst in United States history. At least 20,000 people were forced to evacuate the city. At the time, doctors in Philadelphia were not aware that mosquitoes were causing the spread of the illness. Several centuries passed before that was ever confirmed.
The recent Zika media mayhem only resulted in 298 locally transmitted Zika cases in 2016. That fell off dramatically in the years following.
Photo by John Tann