Alert: Deadly Bacteria and Chikungunya are in South Florida

Flesh eating bacteria and infected mosquitos are in the news right now and some South Florida residents should be aware of the potential health hazards related to them. Elderly and easily susceptible people are especially vulnerable to these microscopic invaders. It is important to be sure that home health care workers, family members and others responsible for caretaking are informed about these diseases, how to treat the symptoms as well as how to avoid them all together. According to an article in “numerous cases of the disease [chikungunya] have appeared in the United States – including 25 in Florida – from travelers who contracted the disease while out of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And experts say it's only a matter of time before it begins spreading among local mosquitos within the U.S.”

According to, Chikungunya fever is caused by a virus that is spread to people through the bite of infectious mosquitoes. The incubation period is usually 3-7 days and symptoms can include sudden fever, joint pain with or without swelling, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, lower back pain and a rash. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya.  Management of the disease includes rest, fluids and medications to relieve the symptoms of fever and pain, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and paracetamol. One female mosquito can lay anywhere between 100 to 300 eggs at one time, and in her lifetime she can lay between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs. Males usually live a week and females generally live two to three weeks.

Preventative measures include getting rid of standing water that collects around your home as mosquitos like to breed in artificial containers and receptacles containing water. For example, the saucer under potted plants can be a breeding ground. Also, puddles that collect and don’t evaporate, bird feeders that are not cleaned out and rain gutters to name a few. The website lists several more suggestions. We’ve included a few here such as covering water tanks, cisterns, barrels and rubbish containers with a tightly secured fitted lid and removing or emptying water in old tires, tin cans, bottles, trays, etc. Checking and cleaning out clogged gutters and flat roofs where water may have settled. Changing water regularly in pet water dishes, birdbaths and plant trays. Introducing larvivorous fish (e.g. guppy) to ornamental water features as these eat the mosquito larvae. Also be sure to trim weeds and tall grasses as adult mosquitoes seek these for shade on hot days. 

Look around your home and yard for these little pools of collected water that have the potential to become breeding grounds. Other measures include not being outside at dusk and dawn as these are peak times for mosquitos. When you are outside cover yourself up with long pants and long sleeve shirts. Also, use mosquito repellent and Citronella candles or torches to help prevent bites. The CDC recommends products that have DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. 

An article recently ran a story titled, “Warm Water Sparks Flesh-Eating Disease Warning in Florida” The article goes on to say that “Florida health officials are warning beachgoers about a seawater bacterium that can invade cuts and scrapes to cause flesh-eating disease. Vibrio vulnificus –- a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera –- thrives in warm saltwater, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If ingested, it can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. But it can also infect open wounds and lead to “skin breakdown and ulceration,” according to the CDC. “Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

Swimming is therapy to many South Florida residents especially the elderly who have challenges with other forms of exercise. If anyone you know has a weak immune system or is susceptible to diseases give them this information and advise them to stay out of the ocean until the health warnings have subsided.

This article is brought to you by Angel Care Nurse Registry.

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