Public health officials confirmed the second case of imported dengue fever on Guam this year.
On Tuesday, the Department of Public Health and Social Services sent a press release saying this week’s confirmed case came from Yap. The first case this year came from Palau, said Guam Territorial Epidemiologist Ann Pobutsky.
“Previously, the majority of suspected cases came from the Philippines, but with the recent outbreaks in Palau and Yap, it’s not a surprise that we’re getting some cases here,” she said, reiterating Public Health’s message that “dengue fever is not endemic in Guam and dengue virus transmission is not occurring on the island.”
“All dengue fever cases occurring on Guam – 41 cases in the 31 years from 1988 to 2018 – and the two confirmed cases to date in 2019, were contracted off island,” health officials stated in the press release.
“Guam will likely continue to see additional suspected and confirmed dengue fever cases this year from immigrants, migrants and residents who travel back and forth, to and from the Philippines, or to and from island states in Micronesia (for example) Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.”
DPHSS officials reiterated that there are several outbreaks of dengue fever in the Western Pacific region, including Palau with 486 cases from Dec. 1, 2018 to Aug. 11, 2019, Yap and the Marshalls. The Philippines declared a national dengue epidemic on Aug. 6, with more than 146,000 cases and 622 deaths from January to July this year.
Dengue fever is characterized by a high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash and mild bleeding around the nose or gums.
Generally, younger children and those with their first dengue infection have a milder illness than older children and adults, according to Public Health.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever, the severe form of the disease, involves a fever that lasts two to seven days, which may be followed by persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain and difficulty breathing, the department stated.
Just recently, there was one other suspected case, which officials said also was from someone who had recently traveled. Officials didn’t disclose the country from which the individual traveled. After testing, officials announced it was not dengue.
Officials warned that people who are traveling to areas where dengue fever is endemic should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Additionally, anyone who feels seriously ill after traveling to countries or islands with locally occurring dengue fever or other mosquito-borne diseases, is asked to see a doctor immediately, officials stated.
Pobutsky said while dengue isn’t endemic to Guam, it’s a good idea for residents keep their yards clean and dry, especially any area that could potentially become a breeding ground. Health officials have said the most effective preventive measure is draining water containers as mosquitoes need a source of water to complete their life cycle, according to the release from Public Health.
“It’s always a good idea to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes in your yard,” the epidemiologist said. “And people should do this regularly because who wants to get bitten by mosquitoes.”
Health officials said there are four D’s of mosquito prevention:
• Drain: Empty out water containers and scrub the sides to remove mosquito eggs at least once every five days
• Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
• Defend: Properly apply an approved mosquito repellent such as DEET, Picardidin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
• Dusk and Dawn: Avoid outdoor activity as these are the times when most mosquitoes are most active.
Dengue fever is caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses that are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, according to Public Health. The primary transmitter, Aedes aegypti mosquito, is not found on Guam. However, A second species, the Asian tiger mosquito, which can transmit dengue fever can be found on the island.
“People traveling to the Philippines, Palau or RMI should be vigilant about taking precautions and preventing mosquito bites,” the release stated.