Impact of Mosquito-Borne Diseases on Children’s Health in Florida
Abstract of our research
Mosquito-borne diseases have long been a concern for public health officials worldwide. Children, due to their developing immune systems and high exposure rates, are particularly vulnerable. This paper delves into the medical and epidemiological impacts of mosquito-borne diseases on children’s health, focusing on the state of Florida.
1. Pathologies and Allergies
Mosquito-borne diseases can lead to severe medical conditions in children. Diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika have been reported in the U.S., with cases predominantly resulting from travel. However, local mosquito-borne transmissions have been identified, particularly in states like Florida1. These diseases can lead to symptoms ranging from mild fever and rash to severe dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
Dengue is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. In children, dengue can manifest as a mild illness with symptoms like fever, headache, and muscle pain. However, in some cases, it can progress to severe dengue, which can be life-threatening. Severe dengue can lead to plasma leakage, severe bleeding, and organ impairment. Children with secondary dengue infections are at a higher risk of developing severe dengue due to antibody-dependent enhancement, where antibodies from a previous infection can increase the severity of a subsequent dengue infection.
Chikungunya is another viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. While the symptoms are similar to dengue, including fever and joint pain, chikungunya is characterized by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain. In children, chikungunya can also lead to neurological complications like encephalopathy.
Zika virus garnered international attention due to its association with birth defects when pregnant women are infected. In children, Zika can lead to symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The most concerning aspect of Zika is its link to microcephaly in newborns, where babies are born with abnormally small heads due to brain malformation.
Beyond the diseases they transmit, mosquito bites can cause allergic reactions in children. These reactions can range from mild itching to more severe conditions like Skeeter Syndrome, characterized by fever, blistering, and even anaphylaxis
1.2.1 Skeeter Syndrome
While most children experience mild reactions to mosquito bites, such as itching and small bumps, some can develop Skeeter Syndrome. This condition is an allergic reaction characterized by large areas of swelling, blisters, and even systemic symptoms like fever. It’s essential for parents and caregivers to recognize the signs of Skeeter Syndrome, as it can be mistaken for an infection or another medical condition.
In rare cases, children can experience an anaphylactic reaction to mosquito bites. This severe allergic reaction can lead to symptoms like difficulty breathing, a rapid or weak pulse, and a drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Three studies conducted in the U.S. highlighted the prevalence of children’s allergies to mosquito bites. We cite these papers at the bottom of this page.
2. Mosquito-Borne Epidemics in Florida
Florida’s tropical climate makes it a hotspot for mosquito-borne diseases. The state has witnessed several epidemics over the years:
2.1 St. Louis Encephalitis Virus Epidemics
In 1990, Florida experienced a significant outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis, with 226 clinical cases reported across 28 counties1. This outbreak disrupted normal activities in the southern half of the state lasted from August through January 1991, resulting in 226 clinical cases and 11 deaths across 28 counties. It had a considerable impact on tourism.
2.2 The 2016 Zika Outbreak
The Zika outbreak in 2016 posed a significant public health challenge for Florida. With its tropical climate and high tourist influx, the state was a hotspot for Zika transmission. A study that utilized Twitter data to improve Zika virus surveillance in the U.S. during the 2016 epidemic found that the distribution of cumulative Zika cases (both local and travel-related) across all 50 U.S. states showed a strong correlation, with Florida being significantly affected.
2.3 Dengue and Chikungunya in Florida
Florida has seen multiple dengue outbreaks over the past two decades. The proximity to dengue-endemic regions and the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes make Florida particularly susceptible. Public health campaigns focusing on mosquito control and public awareness have been crucial in managing these outbreaks.
In 2017, the U.S. reported 971 dengue cases, 195 chikungunya cases, and 1,118 Zika cases1. While most cases were travel-related, seven were locally acquired in Texas and Florida1. The epidemiology of these diseases in Florida mirrors the decreasing case numbers across the Americas following the 2015-2016 outbreaks1.
The impact of mosquito-borne diseases on children’s health in Florida is multifaceted. From a medical perspective, the pathologies and allergies resulting from mosquito bites pose significant health risks. Epidemiologically, Florida’s climate and urbanization trends make it a hotspot for outbreaks. Continued research and surveillance are crucial to mitigate the effects of these diseases on children’s health.
- Adams LE, Martin SW, Lindsey NP, et al. Epidemiology of Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika Virus Disease in U.S. States and Territories, 2017. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2019;101(4):884-890.
- Peng Z, Simons FER. Advances in mosquito allergy. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;7(4):350-354.
- Day JF. PREDICTING ST. LOUIS ENCEPHALITIS VIRUS EPIDEMICS: Lessons from Recent, and Not So Recent, Outbreaks. Annu Rev Entomol. 2001;46:111-38.
- Masri S, Jia J, Li C, et al. Use of Twitter data to improve Zika virus surveillance in the United States during the 2016 epidemic. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):761.