Mosquito-Borne Disease Information

What are Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika?

Mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, are viral diseases primarily transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a freshwater breed common to the southeastern United States, the Bahamas, Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as other tropical and subtropical locations.

How are Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika spread? 

Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika are transmitted to people by the bite of an Aedes species mosquito that is infected with the Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika virus.  The mosquito becomes infected with the virus when it bites a person who has the virus in their blood.  The person can either have symptoms of the disease, or they may have no symptoms.  After about one week, the mosquito can then transmit the virus while biting a healthy person.  Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika cannot be spread directly from person to person. 

What are the symptoms of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika?

Symptoms usually begin 3‒7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).  The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.  Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.  People at increased risk for severe disease include women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, newborns exposed during delivery, older adults (≥65 years), and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.  Deaths are rare.

What is the treatment for Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika?

There is no specific antiviral medication for treatment of a Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika infection.  Persons who think they have Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika should use analgesics (pain relievers) with acetaminophen and avoid those containing aspirin. They should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and consult a health care provider.  

Where can outbreaks of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika occur?

Outbreaks occur primarily in areas where mosquitoes that carry a Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika virus live.  This includes most tropical urban areas of the world.  To date, the viruses have occurred in South America, Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and islands in the Caribbean.  Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses may be introduced into areas by travelers who become infected while visiting other areas of the tropics where the diseases commonly exist.  There is increased risk if an epidemic is in progress or visitors are in housing without air conditioning or screened windows and doors.  

What can be done to reduce the risk of acquiring Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika?

There is no vaccine for preventing Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika. The best defense against these viruses is to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. When traveling to countries where Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

  • Use insect repellents
    • When used as directed, insect repellents are safe and effective for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women.
    • Most insect repellents can be used on children.  Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus in children under the age of three years.
    • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection.
    • If using both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
    • Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing.
    • Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
    • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If unable to remain protected from mosquitoes inside a home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
  • Help reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside a home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.

For more information on what repellent is right for you consider using the Environmental Protection Agency search tool to help choose skin-applied repellent products: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/#searchform.

The sources for the information in this document are the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  To learn more, visit their websites at http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/index.html,  http://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/, http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ and http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html or contact your local county health department. 

Last updated: 01/25/2016