Puerto Rico declares a health emergency due to a historic dengue outbreak on the island

The risk of getting sick with dengue is always present in Puerto Rico and other places with hot and humid climates, but this year cases have exceeded historical figures, according to the Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico, Carlos Mellado.

Mellado declared a public health emergency this week in an effort to reduce dengue cases, claiming the decree will help Puerto Rico have access to the resources needed to combat the mosquitoes that cause it. The alert is scheduled to last at least 90 days and be renewed if necessary.

Puerto Rico thus joins Brazil, Peru and other Latin American nations that have declared an emergency to manage outbreaks.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health reported that they detected an increase in dengue cases on the island at the end of 2023. With 146 cases by the third week of January, the numbers began to exceed 2023 levels.

Since the beginning of the year and by March 10, at least 549 cases of dengue had already been recorded, mainly in the capital, San Juan, according to the Department of Health. 62% of the patients were hospitalized for the disease; 29 cases are considered serious. So far no deaths have been reported.

The most common symptom among those who become infected with the disease, caused by mosquitoes, is fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, rash, and body pain.

Symptoms can be mild or severe. Most dengue patients recover within a week but in severe cases it may require hospitalization as it can result in shock, internal bleeding or even death.

Those who have already had dengue are likely to get sick with more severe symptoms. A person can contract it up to four times in their life, once for each type of virus that causes the disease, according to the CDC, which has been working with the Puerto Rico Department of Health and other local agencies to implement the infection control and prevention plan. dengue.

The strategy includes cleaning and eliminating vectors in areas with standing water that can cause the spread of the mosquito, as well as urging the population to use mosquito repellents and mosquito nets or panels to avoid bites.

Mellado said in a statement on Monday that the entire Puerto Rican society must join forces to prevent the contagion and spread of the virus.

Puerto Rico declared dengue an epidemic in 2012 when at least 199 people died from the disease.