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Broward has first case of West Nile virus in six years

The first case of West Nile virus in six years has been confirmed in Broward County, health officials said Friday, becoming the second mosquito-borne disease circulating in South Florida after dengue fever.

An unidentified adult contracted the disease and had not left the region for two weeks before getting sick, indicating the disease is being spread by local mosquitoes, officials of the Broward County Health Department said.

The patient has recovered fully. The disease starts in birds and spreads to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms include fever, rash, headache, fatigue, weakness and dizziness.

West Nile also is known to be present in Palm Beach County because chickens used to monitor for mosquito diseases have tested positive over the past month, health officials said.

Dengue fever has been present in Broward, where a woman was confirmed in August as having contracted the illness from mosquitoes near her home in the central to northeast stretch of the county east of Interstate 95.

She, too, recovered fully. The case was the first to originate in South Florida in more than 50 years, and touched off increased mosquito spraying and surveillance.

Florida has been grappling with a dengue fever outbreak for about a year, after the disease appeared in Key West. It has infected 39 people so far this year – all but the one case in Key West.

The new case of West Nile fever in Broward is the fourth in the state this year, along with two in Orange County and one in adjoining Osceola County. Also, four Floridians have been infected with a form of encephalitis passed by mosquitoes.

Officials urge people take basic precautions to avoid mosquito bites: Eliminate even small pools of standing water in the house and yard; avoid being outside from dusk to dawn; apply repellent with DEET picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus; wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors, and repair window and door screens.

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