You need to know about the latest outbreak of the disease

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In late March, Puerto Rico issued a public health emergency after about 600 people were confirmed to have dengue fever, leading to hundreds of hospitalizations.
While vaccines exist to prevent the worst outcomes of dengue fever, there is no cure if someone gets sick.
How is dengue fever transmitted?
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
What treatment is available for dengue fever?
What can be done to prevent dengue fever?
For now, most people in the continental U.S. do not need to be concerned about dengue fever, Dos Santos said.
But that type of infrastructure is not guaranteed in parts of the world that struggle more regularly with dengue fever, she said.


As of 2024, about 4 points 7 million people have contracted dengue fever, with the majority of these cases occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean. Experts caution that this number could rise.

According to Dr. Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, an Emory University professor who studies the nexus between ecology, epidemiology, and global health, “we’re seeing a worrisome trend of expansion and increasing circulation of the virus at a global scale.”.

El Nino’s heavy precipitation combined with the ongoing effects of climate change caused by humans have created an environment that is conducive to the disease-carrying mosquito’s growth. As summers get longer and hotter, more people worldwide are coming into contact with dengue, particularly in urban areas where Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads the virus, is found. This is according to Vazquez-Prokopec.

A public health emergency was declared in Puerto Rico towards the end of March, following the confirmation of 600 cases of dengue fever, which resulted in hundreds of admissions.

READ MORE: After a surge in dengue cases, Puerto Rico has declared an epidemic.

To avoid exposure and additional transmission, people who live in and visit these areas can take the necessary precautions. Although there are vaccinations to avoid the worst dengue fever symptoms, once a person contracts the illness, there is no treatment.

How many cases in this outbreak have been found?

According to Thais Dos Santos of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), more than 4.6 million people in the Americas are thought to have contracted dengue fever as of the first four months of 2024 alone. According to her, that is a greater number of cases than were reported in all of 2023.

How is the disease known to spread?

The female mosquito’s stomach contains the dengue virus. The infection can be transferred to another person by an insect biting an infected person and then feeding on them.

Dengue cannot be directly transferred between people.

Due in part to the possibility that people will need to gather and store water in containers, which creates the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, areas with inconsistent access to safe drinking water are particularly vulnerable.

What signs and symptoms are present with dengue fever?

According to Dos Santos, about two thirds of dengue infections do not manifest any symptoms.

Symptoms usually appear in two weeks for those who do, though. Most frequently, people complain of headaches and abruptly high fevers. Dos Santos stated that the disease can cause pain and that a person’s health can quickly worsen. Pain in the muscles and joints, exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting are some symptoms.

In more severe situations, gum bleeding and severe stomach pain may indicate plasma leakage and call for emergency medical attention.

Who is susceptible to developing a serious dengue infection?

Dengue virus strains are known to exist in four different serotypes. Dr. Anna Durbin, who runs the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins University, said that an infection with one strain usually leaves the ill person with lifelong immunity, but only from that strain.

Re-infection with a different strain of the virus can initiate an immune system process known as antibody-dependent enhancement, in which the body’s collection of antibodies serves as a chaperone to carry the virus throughout the body, according to Durbin. Extreme illness may strike and hospitalization may be necessary.

A lot of people are unaware they have been exposed because first-time infections frequently lead to undetected cases with minimal or no symptoms. According to Vazquez-Prokopec, people can become seriously ill after taking a second bite and when a different strain is introduced.

“Seeing a doctor as soon as you feel symptoms is the best way to prevent severe dengue if there is an outbreak,” he stated.

Which medications are available to treat dengue fever?

Dengue fever does not have a cure, but patients can manage their symptoms by working with their healthcare provider. This could entail taking painkillers, drinking more water to stay hydrated, and getting lots of rest.

How can dengue fever be avoided?

In regions where dengue is spreading, apply insect repellent and dress in long sleeves and long pants, advised Vazquez-Prokopec. Since dengue-carrying mosquitoes are nocturnal, covering beds with mosquito nets is not as effective as it could be (though these fine-mesh nets are recommended to slow the spread of other mosquito-borne illnesses, like malaria).

As Dos Santos put it, “be careful not to build up standing water in or around your house.”.

Vazquez-Prokopec said it’s critical to eliminate standing water whenever feasible and to apply mosquito-repellent coils in homes to prevent the insects from feeding on occupants. Communities should also spray for mosquitoes.

According to him, wearing insect repellent for the next three to four days after returning home from a trip to an area where dengue fever is endemic is a good idea if you want to stop the disease from spreading to your neighborhood.

The introduction of male mosquitoes contaminated with the Wolbachia bacteria is one preventive strategy that has drawn interest. The eggs that are produced when those mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes do not hatch, preventing the potential spread of any diseases the insects may carry.

Vazquez-Prokopec declared, “We cannot give up on vector control.”.

Why is this recent epidemic so pervasive?

Prior to the COVID pandemic, dengue cases started to rise, although they decreased between 2016 and 2018. A lower number of people were being bitten or had the opportunity to become immune due to COVID lockdowns, which stopped both people and the virus from spreading.

However, Durbin said that a recent spike in international travel that happened to coincide with an El Nino year has resulted in a sharp rise in confirmed and suspected dengue infections.

“It’s exploded in the last two years,” she stated.

The World Health Organization estimated in January that since early 2023, over 5 million people have contracted dengue fever, with the Americas “reporting the largest proportion of the global burden.”. Over the past five years, the number of confirmed and suspected cases in the Western Hemisphere has more than quadrupled.

Will the United States be continental? s. a major outbreak of some kind?

As of right now, the majority of U.S. s. Dos Santos stated that there’s no need to worry about dengue fever. She stated that many people spend their time inside air-conditioned, screened-in homes during warm weather. They usually do not need to store rainwater because they simply turn on the faucet when they are thirsty. However, she added, in regions of the world where dengue fever is more common, that kind of infrastructure is not guaranteed.

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