What geographic areas are at high risk for contracting dengue fever?
Dengue is prevalent throughout the tropics and subtropics. Outbreaks have occurred recently in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cuba, and Central America. Cases have also been imported via tourists returning from areas with widespread dengue, including Tahiti, Singapore, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, the West Indies, India, and the Middle East (similar in distribution to the areas of the world that harbor malaria and yellow fever). Dengue is now the leading cause of acute febrile illness in U.S. travelers returning from the Caribbean, South America, and Asia.
Thailand reported the worst dengue outbreak in 20 years, with 126 deaths and 135,344 people infected with the virus, as of October 2013.
In 2011, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela reported a large number of dengue cases. Paraguay reported a dengue fever outbreak in 2011, the worst since 2007. Hospitals were overcrowded, and patients had elective surgeries canceled due to the outbreak.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1946 to 1980, no cases of dengue acquired in the continental United States were reported. Since 1980, a few locally acquired U.S. cases have been confirmed along the Texas-Mexico border, temporally associated with large outbreaks in neighboring Mexican cities.
A 2009 outbreak of dengue fever in Key West, Fla., involved three patients who did not travel outside of the U.S. contracted the virus. Subsequent testing of the population of Key West has shown that up to 5% of the people living in the area have antibodies to dengue. In total, 28 people were diagnosed with dengue fever in this outbreak.
Dengue fever is common in at least 100 countries in Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and the Caribbean. Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia have all reported an increase in cases.
According to the CDC, there are an estimated 100 million cases of dengue fever with several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever requiring hospitalization each year. Nearly 40% of the world’s population lives in an area endemic with dengue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 22,000 deaths occur yearly, mostly among children.
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