Puerto Rico declares public health emergency after surge in dengue cases
Puerto Rico declares public health emergency after surge in dengue cases

March 26, 2024

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Key takeaways:

  • Puerto Rico has declared a public health emergency due to an increase in dengue cases.
  • A total of 549 cases have been reported this year in Puerto Rico, with nearly half in San Juan.

Puerto Rico has declared a public health emergency after a surge in dengue cases.

“This year, dengue cases have surpassed historical figures,” Carlos Serrated LfrompezMD, FACEP, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health, said in a press release. “Teams are working on [an integrated prevention and control plan] in response to arboviruses and we will expand the applied response.’

Temples of the Egyptians

WHO attributes this increase in dengue cases in part to the spread of dengue vectors, including Temples of the Egyptians the mosquitoes. Image: Adobe Stock.

As of Monday, the number of confirmed dengue cases in Puerto Rico in 2024 was 549, which is already almost half of the reported infections in 2023. Almost half (49%) of all cases were reported in the San Juan region.

With the declaration of a public health emergency, which will remain in effect for 90 days before reassessment, Lopez said the necessary resources to strengthen surveillance, detection, prevention, vector control and clinical management will be more readily available to support local answer.

However, he added that it is not just Puerto Rico that is seeing an increase in dengue cases.

“It is important to note that the increase in cases is not reflected only in Puerto Rico, but we are seeing it throughout the region of the Americas,” said López.

Indeed, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) told reporters on Tuesday that 4.5 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas last year – the highest total on record. There are now 3 million cases in the Americas as of March 25, according to PAHO, with 81% of cases in Brazil.

The WHO attributes the rise in cases in part to the spread of dengue vectors – mainly Temples of the Egyptians and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes — as well as rising temperatures and precipitation.

A dengue vaccine has been approved in the United States and its territories — including Puerto Rico — since 2019, but only for children ages 9 to 16 who have had laboratory-confirmed previous dengue infection.

According to the CDC, there have been 550 dengue cases in the U.S. this year, although all but a few cases in Florida have been travel-related.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health urges residents to remove mosquito breeding grounds, remove all containers or areas that may collect water, and use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin or other recommended ingredients.

“It is essential to recognize symptoms early, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, rashes and fatigue, as these may be indicative of dengue fever,” Lopez said. “If any of these symptoms are present, immediate medical attention is recommended.”


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