Death highlights danger of overlooking dengue

CDC/James Gathany
CDC/James Gathany

HealthDay News -- The case of a Texas woman who died after becoming infected in New Mexico with the mosquito-borne dengue virus highlights a need for U.S. doctors to recognize the disease early, according to a report published in  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This is the third locally acquired dengue-related death in the United States. A 63-year-old Texas woman became ill in August 2012 after taking a one-month vacation to New Mexico. After returning home, the woman was initially -- and erroneously -- diagnosed with West Nile virus.

On Sept. 22, 2012, the woman went to an emergency room because she had persistent fatigue, fever and chills. She was admitted to the hospital and died Oct. 3 from hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a rare complication of dengue, CDC investigators said.

The case suggests there may be more unrecognized cases of dengue in the United States, the agency warned. For decades, dengue fever had been thought of as an illness that people contracted outside the United States. But that all changed in 2009 and 2010, when a cluster of cases were reported in southern Florida.

Speaking to HealthDay in 2011, as the Florida outbreak was subsiding, Hal Margolis, MD, chief of the CDC's dengue branch, said most dengue that appears in the United States is still brought back by people who have traveled to areas in the world where the disease is endemic.

"There are thousands of people who come back with dengue," Margolis told HealthDay. "That's really the biggest problem."

The Florida outbreak was unusual in that it lasted for two seasons. "How it got introduced, we don't know," he said.

References

  1. Sharp TM et al. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(03):49-54.
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