Dengue cases top 5.2 million in U.S. as outbreak passes annual record, PAHO says

Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Patients with dengue symptoms wait for treatment at a hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, April 5, 2024, as cases continue to rise across the country. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)


According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), dengue cases are on the rise in the United States, with cases reaching 5.2 million this week, surpassing the annual record set in 2023.

As of Wednesday, 5,214,480 dengue cases had been reported in the United States, PAHO spokeswoman Ashley Baldwin told CNN on Thursday. In 2023, the total number of cases reported in the region was 4,572,765.

“We are in an emergency situation because of dengue,” PAHO director Jarbas Barbosa told a news conference on Thursday.

Countries in the southern hemisphere have been hardest hit so far, with Brazil accounting for the majority of cases. In February, Rio de Janeiro declared a public health emergency Amid the surge in cases.

In Peru, 20 of the country's 25 regions are on health alert due to the epidemic, which has increased to more than 155,000 cases, the government said this week. 146 people died.

The situation appears to have stabilized in recent weeks in some South American hotspots, but PAHO warned that other countries in the region, including those in the Northern Hemisphere, should prepare for the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures.

“Most cases in the Southern Hemisphere occur in the first half of the year, and most cases in the Northern Hemisphere occur in the second half of the year,” Baldwin said. “So far this year, we've seen cases peak in the south, and now we expect cases to increase in the north.”

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PAHO says several factors may be contributing to the rise in dengue, including rising temperatures, extreme weather events, rapid population growth and inadequate water and sanitation services that create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

So far in 2024, 1,858 people have died from the disease in the United States, up from last year's total of 2,418.

Barbosa said a vaccine for dengue exists and can play a role in reducing severe cases and deaths, but he cautioned that it won't immediately stop the outbreak.

Augustin Markarian/Reuters

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is kept in a container on March 13, 2024 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Eraldo Perez/AP

Feb. Public health workers spray insecticide during a smoke-free campaign in the Cililandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, June 16, 2024.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that is transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and is also known to carry several other viruses, such as yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to death in severe cases.

In Peru, the outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals, including Lima Hospital Sergio Bernals, which has already treated more than 2,000 patients for dengue this year. In 2023, it will treat more than 900 people, Dr. Oscar Torre, head of the hospital's internal medicine department, told CNN en Español.

Patients at the facility are being treated in a special ward built during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are resting on beds surrounded by netting to keep out mosquitoes that can carry the disease-causing virus, a video from CNN en Español showed.

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To try to contain the outbreak, PAHO recommends implementing a strategy that focuses on surveillance, control of the mosquito that transmits the virus and medical management, Baldwin said.

“Although there is currently no specific treatment for dengue (any clinical condition), most cases are mild. Early detection and proper medical treatment can reduce the probability of dying from severe dengue,” Baldwin added.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus is present in more than 100 countries in tropical and subtropical climates, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas. It also occurs in the American territories of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

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