Dengue fever is common in the tropics. And in recent years the mosquito-borne virus has made inroads into the U.S., along the Texas–Mexico border and in south Florida.
The terrible pain of dengue has earned it the alternate name Breakbone Fever. And last month we learned that a Texas woman who died in 2012 after visiting New Mexico was a dengue victim. She was originally misdiagnosed with West Nile virus. That finding is in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. [Tyler M. Sharp et al., Fatal Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis Associated with Locally Acquired Dengue Virus Infection—New Mexico and Texas, 2012]
This case is the third locally acquired dengue-related death in the U.S in the last decade (not including Puerto Rico, where dengue is common.) All three deaths occurred in the Texas area.
The CDC says it’s tough to gauge the true incidence of dengue in the U.S. because most recent cases appear to have been diagnosed at private labs and were not reported to public health authorities.
Three deaths may sound negligible in a country where some 600,000 people die of heart disease annually. But with more cases cropping up in Texas and Florida, dengue is definitely on the CDC’s watch list.
—Dina Fine Maron
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]