State News

Oct 11, 2013 9:16 AM

Study: Dengue Fever Found In Houston

HOUSTON - Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness that is uncommon in the United States, has re-emerged in Houston, according to a new study.

A study by the Baylor College of Medicine shows the virus has recently been transmitted in Houston, the first evidence the disease so prevalent in the developing world has spread to a major U.S. city in large numbers, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Dr. Kristy Murray, a professor of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the study's principal investigator, says her team found that 47 of 3,768 individuals tested in Houston for West Nile virus between 2003 and 2005 were positive for antibodies to acute dengue infection. The study found that two of the 47 died from the infection.

Murray says the cases suggest there was a dengue outbreak in 2003.

"Dengue virus can cause incredibly severe disease and death," Murray said. "This study shows that Houston may be at risk of an outbreak, that people need to be on the lookout."

While no blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples from after 2005 are available for study, Murray said the virus likely is still in Houston.

Dengue fever is widespread in other parts of the world. Whenever it appears in the U.S., local officials hope to contain it. It can cause severe body aches, high fever and rash. Its most severe forms can cause severe bleeding and death.

In central Florida, 20 cases of dengue fever have been reported this year.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity, said the study "adds to the evidence dengue is a rising public health concern in the U.S."

"There are definitely areas that need to be attuned to the risk, areas where physicians and public health officials need to think about dengue for patients whose symptoms are compatible with the disease," Adalja said.

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