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Dengue in the Americas: rising concern as further local cases detected

This month, a second case of locally-acquired dengue has been confirmed in Florida by health authorities. This means that in addition to a significant rise in the number of dengue infections in residents of Florida who have traveled abroad, two cases in 2019 have been confirmed as autochthonous. Although dengue outbreaks in the U.S. remain rare, the disease carrying mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is established in the U.S. which means that there is always a risk for the local transmission of diseases such as dengue to surge.

Miami-Dade County where a second case of locally acquired dengue has been confirmed.

2019 has overall been a difficult year in terms of dengue infections in the Americas as well as worldwide, and has seen steep rises in dengue cases globally with several nations including Honduras and Nicaragua declaring a national state of alert due to the rapidity and magnitude of outbreaks.

Earlier this month, PAHO (the Pan American Health Organisation) warned of the complex situation for dengue fever in Latin America and the Caribbean as numbers of cases soared. According to PAHO, the region is undergoing a new epidemic cycle, and this month’s epidemiological report by PAHO shows the number of cases in the first seven months of 2019 exceeding the annual counts for previous years with the added difficulty that the majority of severe cases is occurring in children under the age of 15. Further compounding factors include patients seeking self-medication rather than visiting health centres as well as the need for healthcare professionals to be trained further to adequately diagnose and treat affected persons.

Some of the main causes which have been cited as accelerating the rate and complexity of dengue cases in the Americas include recent changes in the climate, insufficient environmental management providing breeding sites for the disease-carrying mosquitoes and the mosquito’s innate capacity to adapt. PAHO and health organisations are focusing their efforts on promoting management of the environment (particularly near homes) to remove suitable breeding grounds for mosquitoes, as well as overall increasing the awareness of local populations both in terms of environmental management and protection from mosquito bites.

For more information about dengue fever, please visit the World Health Organisation website and the PAHO Dengue webpage.

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