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Dengue Virus Infections Linked to Key West, Florida Are First Locally Acquired Infections Since 1934
New Rochelle, NY, June 2, 2010—A confirmed case of dengue virus infection in 2009 acquired by a New York woman while visiting Key West, FL, led to the identification of 27 total dengue cases originating in Key West that year, marking the first Florida-linked dengue cases since 1934 and the first locally acquired dengue outbreak in the continental United States since 1945, according to a report in a recent issue (Vol. 59, No. 19) of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“This evidence of an apparently ongoing local dengue virus transmission cycle in Key West adds to increasing concern regarding the emergence of tropical diseases in the U.S.,” says Stephen Higgs, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., and a professor in the Pathology Department, as well as a member of the Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, and WHO Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases, at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston.
“The dengue outbreak in Florida is an example of the many important vector-borne and zoonotic pathogens typically regarded as causing tropical diseases, but which, as a result of rapid travel, immigration, and many other factors, are increasingly prevalent in the United States,” adds Higgs. “Increased surveillance and measures such as improved blood screening and treatments are urgently needed to address the impact of these ‘unseen’ threats and to cure the victims of these neglected pathogens.”
Peter J. Hotez, a professor at George Washington University and President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, in a May 14, 2010 article in The New York Times entitled “Parasites in Paradise” describes the millions of people who suffer from neglected tropical diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, trichomoniasis, and leptospirosis, in areas such as the Caribbean islands and across many U.S. cities. “This has to change,” says Hotez, “because many of [these diseases] can be cured or prevented at astonishingly low cost with either inexpensive drugs or drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies.”
Whilst local authorities in Key West, “seem to be taking appropriate action to halt the current outbreak,” says Higgs, “the components to fuel future outbreaks remain—competent vectors, a susceptible population, and potential for virus introduction. Travelers returning from overseas with other diseases, such as chikungunya, have been identified in the U.S., demonstrating our vulnerability and the need for surveillance, research, and education.”