Disease Outbreaks and Biological Events
Historically, Florida has suffered from repeated large epidemics of serious mosquito-borne disease, including yellow fever (YF), malaria, dengue (DEN), and encephalitis. These diseases remain a serious threat to Florida residents. Florida's proximity to areas in the Caribbean basin that are currently suffering from these diseases contributes to concern about the potential for their resurgence in the state. This proximity also makes the state susceptible to invasion by emerging diseases arising in the region. In the past 35 years, St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) have become increasingly important in Florida.
Although infectious diseases are a frightening prospect, widespread outbreaks of infectious disease after hurricanes are not common in the United States. Rare and deadly exotic diseases, such as cholera or typhoid fever, do not suddenly break out after hurricanes and floods in areas where such diseases do not naturally occur.
Communicable disease outbreaks of diarrhea and respiratory illness can occur when water and sewage systems are not working and personal hygiene is hard to maintain as a result of a disaster. However, no disease outbreaks have been reported as of September 3, 2005 in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Because weaponized forms of certain biological agents have been developed, the threat of using such agents against civilian populations through bioterrorism attacks has emerged over the past few years. Bioterrorism, which had been largely a topic of speculation, became a serious reality for the United States in October 2001, when anthrax cases following exposure to contaminated mail occurred in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.
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