© wtsp

Tampa, Florida -- State health workers say it's official: Florida is now witnessing incidents of two diseases we haven't experienced in years, if not decades.

"It's of course important for Floridians in all parts of the state, but especially South Florida," says Dr. Carina Blackmore with the state's health department.

The diseases being discussed are cholera and dengue fever. Cholera is spread by unsanitary conditions. Dengue fever, by mosquitoes.

So far, the Tampa Bay area has not seen an outbreak of either disease, but health officials are watching closely for people who exhibit symptoms.

Warren McDougle, an epidemiologist with the Hillsborough County Health Department says they're working with the state to "notify doctors to be on the lookout for this, and to use it as a differential diagnosis."

McDougle says cholera is most likely making its way into Florida from Haiti. Relief workers responding to the earthquake and hurricane battered nation are being exposed to the disease there, and unwittingly bringing it back here.

The latest case of cholera confirmed by the state is a Collier County woman who'd been visiting relatives in Haiti.

Cholera symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps. A thousand people have died from the latest outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

While it is unlikely to spread here, McDougle says "If the persons coming back happen to work in the food industry, we would have special concern there," since transmitting the disease to larger groups of people could then be more possible.

The other disease being watched closely is dengue fever, which is transmitted through mosquitoes. Dengue fever can cause severe headaches, muscle pain - and in some cases, even death.

Miami-Dade confirmed its first locally-acquired case of dengue fever this week. That means the disease did not come from a foreign source into the U.S., but rather it originated here.

The state of Florida has seen six times as many cases of dengue fever this year as in 2009. So far, 120 cases.

Seven of those cases were in Hillsborough County. All seven, say officials, were people bringing the disease from another country. In each case, the person was identified and spraying in that person's neighborhood was intensified to kill mosquitoes.

Only about one percent of the mosquito population is the type of mosquito capable of carrying the disease. But officials warn, that still is enough for them to be concerned.

"All it takes is one of those mosquitoes in a household and a bunch of people can get sick," says Dr. Carlos Fernandes, Director of Hillsborough County's Mosquito Control office, "That is the problem with dengue."

Another problem is this cooler weather we've seen lately. It hasn't been cold enough, says Fernandes, to kill the insects, but it has been pleasant enough that people are leaving their doors and windows open. That in turn allows mosquitoes to get inside the house.

Officials are repeating warnings to get rid of standing water around the home, avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk and wear protective clothing.

As for cholera, the best advice say health officials, is to wash your hands frequently and see a doctor immediately if you begin to exhibit symptoms.