Cases of dengue virus increase, particularly in New Jersey and New York, CDC says

Thursday, July 11, 2024 3:43AM
Cases of dengue virus increase, particularly in New Jersey and New York, CDC says
Cases of dengue virus increase, particularly in New Jersey and New York, CDC says

The CDC says that cases of the dengue virus have increased, particularly in New York and New Jersey.

Officials say 41 cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been reported in the Garden State.

Pennsylvania has reported 25 cases, while Delaware has only reported four.

There are more than 2,500 infections in the U.S. so far. Most people became sickened while traveling, according to officials.

What is dengue, and where is it common?

Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread mainly via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry several other viruses such as yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika, according to the CDC.

Dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries in tropical and subtropical climates, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas, according to WHO.

It's also endemic in the US territories of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

More than 34,000 locally acquired cases were reported in the US between 2010 and 2023, according to CDC data. A handful of outbreaks of locally transmitted cases have been reported in states with warmer climates, including Florida, Texas, Hawaii and Arizona. California reported its first locally-transmitted case in Pasadena last year.

But almost all US cases are reported in Puerto Rico, says Dr. Gabriela Paz-Bailey, chief of the Dengue Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases at the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told CNN previously. And that's not a surprise.

"It has the perfect climate for it. It's a tropical island," she said. "There are indeed efforts from the health department and other organizations like the Puerto Rico vector control unit to control dengue in the area."

This includes public education and integrated mosquito management such as "removing places where the mosquitoes lay eggs, and that is done through community engagement, but also clean-up campaigns," Paz-Bailey said.

Similar efforts are also recommended in the rest of the US and its territories, she noted.

Dengue symptoms

Only about 1 in 4 people infected with dengue will have symptoms.

The most common symptom is fever, and it can also cause nausea, vomiting, rash or aches and pains - typically behind the eyes or muscle, joint or bone pain.

There are four strains of the virus, or serotypes, according to the World Health Organization. Once someone catches one of the strains, it can't infect them again. But the more times someone is infected with different strains, the more likely they are to become severely ill.

Severe dengue is less common, with about 1 in 20 people developing it. But the symptoms are more troubling. It can cause shock, internal bleeding and even death.

About 100 million people get sick and 40,000 die of severe dengue around the world each year, according to the CDC.

Dengue vaccine and treatment

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine for dengue in 2019 and the CDC recommends it to children ages 9 to 16 who have laboratory-confirmed evidence of a dengue infection and who live in areas of the United States where dengue is endemic or regularly occurring. The vaccine requires three doses, given six months apart.

However, Sanofi-Pasteur said it will stop manufacturing the vaccine, Dengvaxia, due to a lack of demand in the global market.

There is no dengue vaccine available for adults in the US. The CDC said there are two other dengue vaccines approved or in development, but they are not currently available in the United States.

There's also no specific medicine to treat dengue, the CDC says. Over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen can ease fever or pain, but experts say not to take aspirin or ibuprofen because they can increase the risk of hemorrhaging sometimes seen with dengue.

Protecting yourself from dengue

Preventing mosquito bites and controlling mosquitoes in and around the home are the key ways to prevent dengue. If you're going outside, the CDC recommends US Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents to prevent bites from mosquitoes that may be carrying dengue. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants is another option, along with treating your clothing with 0.5% permethrin, an insecticide.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue and other viruses, does not like to travel far and prefers to breed in our backyards, said Dr. Isik Unlu, acting director and operations manager of the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control Division.

"They prefer to be around people. That is the problem," she said, adding that the species is often found in containers that collect rainwater, especially during the summer months.

Almost everything you see in a backyard can become a breeding ground, Unlu says, including birdbaths, plant saucers, tires, extension gutters and kiddie pools.

Unlu and Paz-Bailey recommend removing standing water around your home as often as possible to prevent mosquitoes from gathering and breeding.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.