Third dengue death in Puerto Rico sparks fears

Puerto Rico’s health secretary issued a warning on July 5 that the island could potentially face its worst outbreak of dengue fever if action is not taken immediately.

The warning, as reported by the Associated Press, came after the third dengue related fatality of the year, and calls for the eradication of breeding areas for disease-spreading mosquitoes. Residents have been urged to drain pools of standing water near homes, sleep under mosquito netting and wear insect repellent in order to prevent what Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez Feliciano calls, “A public health crisis.”

“If we do not act now, we will see a catastrophe in the months of August and September that could reach record numbers and would make it much more difficult to control," Feliciano told the Associated Press.

To forestall the crisis, the government has ordered trucks to begin spraying neighborhoods and school areas to with a mosquito-killing mist and has asked people to report their neighbors to authorities should they have standing water on their properties. Gonzalez said that too many Puerto Rican residents had let their guard down against the disease.

The situation this summer in Puerto Rico may have been exacerbated by the unusually water-logged weather recorded in May and June, creating the damp conditions that mosquitoes use to breed. In 1998, dengue claimed 19 deaths and sickened approximately 17,000 people. It has no vaccine and typically causes fever, headaches and extreme pain in joints and muscles.