THURSDAY, June 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The passing of a Miami lady in her 30s from locally acquired dengue fever highlights the need for awareness of a possibly deadly mosquito-borne virus that’s now located in the United States.
Once only seen in warm and tropical tropical or subtropical locales, dengue has been on the upswing in parts of the southern United States due to global warming, travel and other factors. While most Americans still contract the disease when traveling to regions of the world where dengue is endemic, there have also been instances of locally acquired dengue in the United States, such as a 2019 outbreak in Miami.
This may happen when a neighborhood mosquito feeds on a person who’s infected with dengue then pass the illness on to other people.
Spread with a bite from an infected Aedes mosquito, dengue could cause a high fever, rash and muscular or joint pain. In acute cases, dengue may cause potentially fatal bleeding and shock. Every year, up to 400 million people will get infected with disease and about 22,000 will die from the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2019, Florida saw 413 people diagnosed with dengue, most of whom had recently traveled to Cuba. This outbreak sired 18 locally acquired cases, including one that led to the young Miami woman’s death. To determine the origin of the infection, doctors reviewed the girl’s travel history and conducted genetic sequencing of the virus, which confirmed that it was locally obtained.
Her story is the cornerstone of a letter from the June 10 dilemma of the New England Journal of Medicine. It should function as a cautionary tale, said co-author Dr. Stephen Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
“Florida is a sort of a quasi-endemic area for dengue now,” he said. “We should expect this as a risk moving forward, and doctors in the southern U.S. should know that dengue is on the table as a possible diagnosis.”
There is no widely available vaccine to prevent dengue, Morris explained. To stave off disease,”use a good bug spray, cover your skin and avoid areas with a lot of standing water,” he explained. Mosquitoes prefer to put eggs near standing water in buckets, bowls, flower vases and baskets.
Screens on windows and doors may keep mosquitoes out, Morris explained.
There is no quick test for dengue either so it may take several days to make a diagnosis, explained study co-author Tyler Sharp, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s dengue branch at San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A delay in diagnosis played a part in the Miami female’s death. “If you think it could be dengue, treat it as if they have it, and if it’s negative, there is no downside,” Sharp explained.
Treatment entails hydration and close monitoring of vital signs. “Tell your doctor if you have been to an area where dengue is endemic or if someone you know has recently been diagnosed with dengue as it may not be front of mind to many doctors,” he explained.
Controlling mosquitoes at the community level was more challenging, said Sharp.
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