WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Even more reasons to take precautions against mosquito bites. About five percent of the population of Key West has recently been exposed to the virus that causes dengue fever.
West Palm Beach resident Donna Ross lived in the Caribbean island nation of St. John in the 1990s when she was bitten by a mosquito that carried a virus. "We did not know what it was. Every joint in our body ached, fingers, toes, every joint. It was very painful," said Ross.
Turns out she had Dengue fever, the most common virus transmitted by mosquitoes in the world. It's mostly found in developing countries.
Now, the Center for Disease Control says An estimated five percent of the Key West population -- about 1,000 people -- has been exposed to the dengue virus. Thirty-nine people have actually come down with it.
There hasn't been an outbreak in Florida since 1934. The CDC is concerned if the Dengue gets a foothold in Key West, it could easily spread through Miami and points north.
Symptoms include chills, headache and pain when moving the eyes, a low backache as well as painful aching in the legs and joints. "There is a special form of Dengue, Dengue Hemorrhagic fever where it causes the blood not to clot and you can bleed to death. That happens rarely," says infectious disease specialist Dr. David Dodson.
A Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman says they've been on the look out for Dengue Fever for several years.
They say it can't be tracked by sentinel chickens. Instead, health officials have been calling doctors all over the county. So far, no cases have been reported here.