Dengue Fever: CDC Issues Alert Amid Rising Global Cases

The CDC has issued an advisory for physicians, public health authorities, and the public in the United States to remain vigilant as global cases of dengue fever rise. Dengue, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, currently has no cure, and severe cases, though rare, can be life-threatening. The CDC expects the mosquitoes’ territory to expand as global temperatures rise, likely increasing dengue cases.

Record-Breaking Cases in the Americas
In 2024, dengue fever cases in the Americas have reached unprecedented levels, with over 9.7 million reported cases, doubling the total for 2023. Puerto Rico declared a public health emergency in March 2024 following the World Health Organization’s declaration in December 2023. In the mainland U.S., 745 cases were identified in travelers in the first half of the year, which is above average.

Dengue Symptoms
Approximately 75% of people infected with dengue fever do not exhibit symptoms. Mild symptoms may include:

  • Sudden fever of around 104°F (40°C)
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Rash
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Facial flushing
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Red eyes

These symptoms typically last between 2-7 days, with most individuals recovering within a week. Severe cases, occurring in 0.5% to 5% of infections, can be life-threatening and may include:

  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Vomiting at least three times in 24 hours
  • Bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Changes in temperature from very hot to very cold
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • High-Risk Groups
    Dr. David Cutler, a board-certified family medicine physician, highlights that infants, pregnant individuals, adults over 65, and those with underlying conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, chronic kidney or liver disease, and obesity are at the highest risk for severe dengue.

Preventive Measures
Preventive measures include:

  • Sleeping under mosquito nets
  • Using insect repellents
  • Emptying and cleaning standing water containers
  • Installing screens on windows and doors
  • Traveling to Dengue-Endemic Areas
  • Dr. Jessica Tuan, an infectious diseases specialist, advises that travelers to dengue-endemic regions are at increased risk. These areas include parts of Africa, the Americas, Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the Western Pacific. She recommends using mosquito repellent and following local guidelines to prevent mosquito bites. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices suggests the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, for children aged 9-16 years with prior dengue infection and residing in endemic areas.

Future Prospects
Dr. James Shepherd, an infectious diseases specialist, notes that while the dengue virus cannot mutate like the COVID-19 virus due to the absence of treatment pressures, the rising number of cases might incentivize the development of antiviral medications as the disease spreads to more temperate and affluent regions.

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