A Dengue Fever outbreak warning has been issued for the St. Thomas/St. John district. Residents are urged to seek immediate care if they fall ill, according to Department of Health Commissioner Julia Sheen.
“If you don’t seek immediate medical care, Dengue Fever can lead to death,” Sheen said.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever include persistent headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. More complicated cases of Dengue Fever can result in Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which is characterized by high fever, bleeding and circulatory failure in rare instances, may result in death.
Dengue Fever can be caused by four different viruses which are called Dengue 1, Dengue 2, Dengue 3 and Dengue 4. Epidemiologist Dr. Eugene Tull identified the Dengue Fever circulating on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John as Dengue 2 and urged healthcare providers to report cases to the Health Department.
“We have laboratory testing confirmation from the CDC that it is the same type of Dengue that we experienced on St. Croix in 2005,” Tull said. “Physicians who are seeing suspected Dengue cases in their offices, however, are not reporting the information to the Department of Health, as required by law. This has the effect of making it difficult to effectively confirm the level of transmission of the active Dengue virus.”
To date, of 19 suspected cases, there have been nine laboratory confirmed cases in the St. Thomas/St. John district. On St. Croix, there have been four suspected cases with no confirmed cases.
DOH stepped up its Dengue Education campaign in June when the initial case of Dengue was laboratory confirmed. Residents have been urged to scour their yards after heavy rains to empty out man-made receptacles as part of that effort to prevent their homes from being a haven for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that transmits the Dengue from person to person.
“Dengue is usually contracted inside of the home,” Tull said “If you are ill and the mosquito bites you and that same mosquito bites me several days later, the virus may be transmitted.”
On average, it takes about a week before an infected mosquito can transmit the virus when it bites another person, Tull said. Sheen also reminded health care providers that Dengue Fever is a reportable disease and that all medical agencies, clinics and private physicians territory-wide are required to report any cases to 773-1311, Ext. 3241.
To report large pools of stagnant water, contact the Environmental Health Division on St. Thomas at 774-9000, Ext. 4641 or dial 715-5111. For more information on Dengue Fever, visit www.healthvi.org.