- With little fanfare on July 13, Florida officials released
the findings of a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study conducted recently
in the Key West area revealing that about 10 percent, or 1,000 people,
of the coastal town's population are infected with the dengue fever virus.
- While the July 13 release made little mention of it,
the CDC study was provoked by an earlier 2009 report that a woman in New
York State, who had returned from a Florida Keys' visit, had contracted
dengue fever. Within a few weeks of this initial report, two additional
cases were discovered in people who had returned from Key West. Over the
next three months of 2009, an additional 26 cases were identified, all
tied to visits to the town.
- Because of these reported cases, the Florida Keys Mosquito
Control District conducted greatly increased aerial spraying to control
mosquitoes. Following the spraying, a small amount of other cases were
reported, including that of a 41-year-old Key West man who found blood
in his urine and had severely aching joints. Following these additional
reports, the CDC launched its study of antibodies in Key West residents
and found that 5 percent of the town's residents have been exposed to the
dengue virus. Said CDC dengue expert, Dr. Christopher J. Gregory, "The
best estimate from the survey is that about 5 percent of [residents] was
infected in 2009 with dengue." Gregory also stated, "We have
known for a while it is a possible risk, but this outbreak shows it is
more than possible: It is something that did happen and could happen again."
- Despite the low-key nature of the Florida release, the
Homeland Security Administration immediately issued a "terror alert"
concerning the findings and Monroe County, within which Key West is located,
also issued its own health advisory warning "effective immediately."
- Said Bob Eadie of the Monroe County Health Department,
"Dengue is rare in Florida, but not unknown. It's just one of several
mosquito-borne illnesses monitored by the department and why we continually
remind the public to take precautions against bites." Eadie added,
"Many people may be infected and not develop any symptoms. Our department
and the CDC will have to do some detective work after interviewing and
drawing blood from residents who appear to be perfectly fine but may have
- Dengue fever is a virus-based disease spread by the bites
of mosquitoes. It can be caused by any one of four separate but related
viruses carried by infected mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes
aegypti, found in tropic and subtropic areas. It is commonly found in Southeast
Asia, South and Central America, Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa. Over
the past several decades it has been consistently reported that dengue
fever has been eradicated in North America. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is
a far more severe form of the dengue virus. If untreated, it can be fatal.
The chief symptoms of dengue fever are a high fever, severe headache, strong
pain behind the eyes, joint, muscle and bone pain, easy bruising, rash
and mild bleeding from the nose and gums. There is no cure or vaccine for
dengue fever. One can only treat the symptoms in such ways as getting plenty
of rest, drink plenty of water, take pain relievers with acetaminophen
and promptly consult a skilled physician.
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- Hidden History of Dengue
- It appears highly unlikely that any "detective work"
performed by the CDC and Florida health officials will unearth evidence
of dengue fever being imported into Florida, but that evidence certainly
exists. Prior to the recent Key West findings and still today, the CDC
has consistently reported that there have been no outbreaks of dengue fever
in Florida since 1934 and none in the continental US since 1946. This report
- Unknown to most Americans is that dengue fever has been
the intense focus of US Army and CIA biological warfare researchers for
over 50 years. Ed Regis notes in his excellent history of Fort Detrick,
"The Biology of Doom," that as early as 1942 leading biochemists
at the installation placed dengue fever on a long list for serious consideration
as a possible weapon. In the early 1950s, Fort Detrick, in partnership
with the CIA, launched a multi-million dollar research program under which
dengue fever and several addition exotic diseases were studied for use
in offensive biological warfare attacks. Assumably, because the virus is
generally not lethal, program planners viewed it primarily as an incapacitant.
Reads one CIA Project Artichoke document: "Not all viruses have to
be lethal ... the objective includes those that act as short-term and long-term
incapacitants." Several CIA documents, as well as the findings of
a 1975 Congressional committee, reveal that three sites in Florida, Key
West, Panama City and Avon Park, as well as two other locations in central
Florida, were used for experiments with mosquito-borne dengue fever and
other biological substances.
- The experiments in Avon Park, about 170 miles from Miami,
were covertly conducted in a low-income African-American neighborhood that
contained several newly constructed public housing projects. CIA documents
related to its top-secret Project MK/NAOMI clearly indicate that the mosquitoes
used in Avon Park were the Aedes aegypti type. Specially equipped aircraft,
in one of the larger experiments, released 600,000 mosquitoes over the
area. In one of the Avon Park experiments, about 150,000 mosquitoes were
dropped in paper bags designed to open upon impact with the ground. Each
bag held about 1,000 insects. Besides dengue, some of the mosquitoes were
also carrying yellow fever.
- Avon Park residents, still living in the area, say the
experiments resulted in "at least 6 or 7 deaths." One elderly
resident told Truthout, "Nobody knew about what had gone on here for
years, maybe over 20 years, but in looking back it explained why a bunch
of healthy people got sick quick and died at the time of those experiments."
Interestingly, at the same time experiments were conducted in Florida,
there were at least two cases of dengue fever reported among civilian researchers
at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
- A 1978 Pentagon publication, entitled "Biological
Warfare: Secret Testing & Volunteers," reveals that the Army's
Chemical Corps and Special Operations and Projects Divisions at Fort Detrick
conducted "tests" similar to the Avon Park experiments in Key
West, but the bulk of the documentation concerning this highly classified
and covert work is still held by the Pentagon as "secret." One
former Fort Detrick researcher says the Army "performed a number of
experiments in the area of the Keys," but that "not all concerned
- In 1959, Fort Detrick launched its largest mosquito experiment
called Operation Bellwether, consisting of over 50 field experiments. Some
of these experiments, designed to ascertain the "rate of biting"
and "mosquito aggressiveness," were conducted in partnership
with scientists with the Rockefeller Institute in New York, where scientists
bred their own strain of mosquitoes. Some of the Bellwether experiments
were conducted in Florida, as well as in other states, including Georgia,
Maryland, Utah and Arizona.
- The 1978 Pentagon publication, along with two other Chemical
Corps reports, reveal the identities of a number of the companies and institutions
that assisted the Army in its offensive biological warfare experiments:
Armour Research Foundation (1951-1954); the Battelle Memorial Institute
(1952-1965); Ben Venue Labs, Inc. (1953-1954); University of Florida (1953-1956);
Florida State University (1951-1953); and the Lovell Chemical Company (1951-1955).
- In the spring and summer of 1981, Cuba experienced a
severe hemorrhagic dengue fever epidemic. Between May and October 1981,
the island nation had 158 dengue-related deaths with about 75,000 reported
infection cases. Prior to this outbreak, Cuba had reported only a very
small number of cases in 1944 and 1977. At the height of the epidemic,
over 10,000 people per day were found infected and 116,150 were hospitalized.
At the same time as the 1981 outbreak, covert biological warfare attacks
on Cuba's residents and crops were believed to have been conducted against
the island by CIA contractors and military airplane flyovers. Particularly
harmful to the nation was a severe outbreak of swine flu that Fidel Castro
attributed to the CIA. American researcher William H. Schaap, an editor
of Covert Action magazine, claims the Cuba dengue outbreak was the result
of CIA activities. Former Fort Detrick researchers, all of whom refused
to have their names used for this article, say they performed "advance
work" on the Cuba outbreak and that it was "man made."
- In 1982, the Soviet media reported that the CIA sent
operatives into Afghanistan from Pakistan to launch a dengue epidemic.
The Soviets claimed the operatives were posing as malaria workers, but,
instead, were releasing dengue-infected mosquitoes. The CIA denied the
charges. In 1985 and 1986, authorities in Nicaragua accused the CIA of
creating a massive outbreak of dengue fever that infected thousands in
that country. CIA officials denied any involvement, but Army researchers
admitted that intensive work with arthropod vectors for offensive biological
warfare objectives had been conducted at Fort Detrick in the early 1980s,
having first started in the early 1950s. Fort Detrick researchers reported
that huge colonies of mosquitoes infected with not only dengue virus, but
also yellow fever, were maintained at the Frederick, Maryland, installation,
as well as hordes of flies carrying cholera and anthrax and thousands of
ticks filled with Colorado fever and relapsing fever.
- A review of declassified Army Chemical Corps documents
reveal that the Army may have also been engaged in dengue fever research
as early as the late 1940s. Several redacted Camp Detrick and Edgewood
Arsenal reports indicate that experiments were conducted on state and federal
prisoners who were unwitting exposed to dengue fever, as well as other
viruses, some possibly lethal. Freedom of Information requests filed months
ago for details on these early experiments remain unanswered.
- *****Dengue Fever and BP Spill Complications*****
- The timing of this outbreak of dengue fever presents
two additional problems; the symptoms of dengue fever are very similar
to that of exposures to chemicals such as those contained in crude oil
and the dispersants currently being used in the contaminated areas of the
Gulf of Mexico, potentially making it difficult to diagnose the source
of a sufferer's symptoms. Worse yet, there looms the possibility that Corexit
and other toxins present in the Gulf area may weaken the immune system,
thus, setting the stage for more severe forms of the disease in people
who are, or have previously been, exposed to the virus.
- It is still unclear to what degree residents of the Gulf
area, at large, have been or will be exposed to such chemicals in the long
term, but there is mounting evidence that fishermen, cleanup workers, and
others who spend significant time in contact with the Gulf waters are beginning
to display symptoms consistent with chemically induced neurotoxicity. If
dengue fever also spreads within the Gulf community, affecting a significant
number of people, it will be increasingly difficult to differentiate the
cause of symptoms in those who develop them; even in persons who test positive
for dengue exposure, the additional possibility remains that chemical toxicity
is present as well.
- The presentation of dengue fever varies considerably
from case to case. Numerous medical studies have identified asymptomatic
infections, or infections that consist of only mild, flu-like symptoms
that would likely not result in the sufferer seeking medical attention.
- When more troubling symptoms are present, they vary considerably
in severity. According to the CDC, milder cases of dengue fever are identified
by a high fever accompanied by at least two of the following symptoms:
severe headache; severe eye pain (behind eyes); joint pain; muscle and/or
bone pain; rash; a mild bleeding manifestation such as bleeding gums, nose
bleeds, or easy bruising; and low white cell count. In more severe cases,
dengue can cause severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting; red blotches
or patches on the skin; more severe bleeding of nose or gums; vomiting
of blood; black, tarry excrement (indicative of the presence of blood in
the stool); drowsiness; irritability; cold or clammy skin; pallor; and
difficulty breathing. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
has reported cases of dengue fever that resulted in neurological manifestations,
- Dengue fever can also cause a much more serious, hemorrhagic
form of the disease, the presentation of which the CDC describes as follows:
- "[A] fever that lasts from 2 to 7 days, with general
signs and symptoms consistent with dengue fever. When the fever declines,
warning signs may develop. This marks the beginning of a 24 to 48 hour
period when the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) become excessively
permeable ("leaky"), allowing the fluid component to escape from
the blood vessels into the peritoneum (causing ascites) and pleural cavity
(leading to pleural effusions). This may lead to failure of the circulatory
system and shock and possibly death without prompt, appropriate treatment.
In addition, the patient with DHF has a low platelet count and hemorrhagic
manifestations, tendency to bruise easily or have other types of skin hemorrhages,
bleeding nose or gums and possibly internal bleeding."
- As if this were not troubling enough, let us compare
the above symptom picture to the symptoms associated with exposure to the
dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527. The exact risks of exposure
to these chemicals have yet to be determined; in fact, the manufacturers'
material safety data sheet (MSDS) for Corexit 9500 states: "No toxicity
studies have been conducted on this product." The MSDS further states
that one should not come in contact with the product or breathe its vapors
and that adequate protective skin protection and breathing apparatuses
should be worn when handling or working with the compound. Any hints of
safe usage within the MSDS on these chemicals should be viewed from the
following perspective: the MSDS data assumes limited exposure (for example,
while applying the chemical) and the use of adequate protective gear. These
statistics do not apply, therefore, to unprotected people who may be subject
to long-term, consistent exposure.
- Many toxicologists have raised grave concerns, however,
about the risks that these dispersants may pose to residents of the Gulf
of Mexico area. Dr. Susan Shaw, a marine toxicologist, talked about her
recent experience with shrimpers who had been working in the Gulf waters.
In an interview on CNN, she addressed the situation of a shrimper who had
thrown his net into water, causing the water to splash onto his unprotected
skin. She reported that he developed a "headache that lasted 3 weeks,
heart palpitations, muscle spasms, bleeding from the rectum ..." and
continued, "and that's what this Corexit does, it ruptures red blood
cells, causes internal bleeding and liver and kidney damage. ..."
She asserts that the combination of oil from the well, combined with Corexit
dispersant, increases the toxicity of both substances. In combination,
she believes that they are skin permeable and that they aerosolize to produce
a breathing hazard as well. The toxins can enter the body through the respiratory
tract, but are unlikely to remain localized in the lungs, instead spreading
throughout one's entire body system.
- Numerous reports have come in from both residents of
the Gulf area and journalists visiting the area that many people who are
exposed to the water are beginning to experience health problems. Among
the most commonly reported symptoms are burning eyes, skin rashes, lightheadedness,
dizziness, difficulty breathing, transient numbness and shooting pains,
persistent coughing, sore throats, muscle and bone aches, weakness and
severe fatigue. More troubling reports, such as those of the shrimpers
mentioned above, have included bleeding from the nose and from the rectum,
as well as permanent numbness in extremities and complete loss of the sense
of smell. It is generally accepted in the medical literature that, although
the initial, acute presentation of toxic exposure is generally the most
severe, symptoms may linger indefinitely or even result in permanent damage
to the body.
- Herein lies the dilemma: If a Gulf resident becomes ill,
to what do we attribute his or her symptoms? In addition to the dispersants
themselves, Gulf residents are potentially suffering from exposure to benzene
and other toxic chemicals that are naturally present in crude oil, as well
as several potentially toxic gases being released from the well. In combination
with the dispersant, the exact toxicity risk of these chemicals remains
- Add now, to the picture, the risk of having contracted
dengue fever and the puzzle becomes more difficult to piece together. The
CDC's 2009 survey contained samples from only 240 households and determined
that about 5 percent of the residents had antibodies to the dengue virus,
indicating either current infection or a prior exposure. This relatively
small sample may not be indicative of the Florida population as a whole
and may not be a valid indicator of the overall number of exposed people
in the surrounding areas.
- The medical literature indicates that dengue virus, like
many other viruses, may remain in the body in a latent form; during latency,
the virus is unlikely to cause symptoms. A second infection with dengue,
however, can lead to a much more severe presentation of the disease and
a greater likelihood of it progressing to its hemorrhagic (and potentially
fatal) form. Likewise, the literature indicates that a severe assault to
the immune system presents a risk of virus reactivation and resultant disease.
- Dr. Shaw's assessment of the dangers of Corexit dispersant,
particularly in combination with the other contaminants resulting from
the damaged BP oil well, includes the potential for severe damage to the
immune system. Such immune system suppression or damage, it seems, could
then reactivate dengue fever in residents who carry the latent virus, perhaps
even resulting in a more severe form of the disease's presentation.
- Assuming the above quoted assessments of the current
situation in Florida are accurate, the presence of the dengue virus in
Florida at this time makes for a nightmarish picture. Not only is there
a tremendous symptom overlap between dengue virus and toxin exposure, up
to and including the potential for a hemorrhagic presentation of both,
but there looms on the horizon a new and frightening possibility: The combined
presence of this disease and a toxic environment might have the potential
to combine, making an already tragic situation incrementally worse.