Caribbean Mosquitoes Carry a Seldom Discussed Travel Disease
While approximately 500 million people in the Americas are at risk of dengue in 2023, most Caribbean visitors are unaware of this mosquito-transmitted disease.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently confirmed the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the primary source of dengue transmission in infants, young children, and adults.
Once infected, dengue symptoms range from mild to incapacitating high fever and related fatalities.
For example, Puerto Rico's Department of Health reported on January 7, 2023, there were three dengue fatalities out of 371 hospitalizations in 2022.
In total, Puerto Rico reported 929 locally-acquired dengue infections in 2022.
Moreover, Florida's southeastern coastal areas have reported locally-acquired dengue cases for years.
In 2022, the Florida Health Department reported 869 travel-associated and 68 locally-acquired dengue cases. Most dengue cases are being confirmed in the greater Miami area.
And two travel-associated dengue fever cases were reported in Florida in early 2023.
"Strategies to combat them (dengue) include bringing prevention, diagnosis, and treatment closer to vulnerable communities," commented Marcos Espinal, PAHO's director of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health, in a press release in 2022.
The best way to avoid dengue infections is to prevent mosquito bites, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The dengue-carrying mosquitoes generally bite people during the day, from dawn until dusk.
Wearing long sleeve shirts and applying bug sprays with DEET or Icaridin are common tactics to avoid mosquito bites.
Another dengue prevention option is becoming more available in 2023.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously approved the Dengvaxia® vaccine, which is being carefully tested in Puerto Rico in 2023.
And the FDA is reviewing the QDENGA® vaccine, which has already been authorized in Europe and Indonesia.
While the CDC has not issued a travel alert regarding Florida or Puerto Rico dengue outbreaks, it did publish Level-1 Advisories for the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands in 2022.