Study: Dengue fever costs Puerto Rico nearly $40 million annually

A new report found that dengue fever is causing a $37.8 million burden every year on Puerto Rico and that $1 invested in prevention and surveillance could save $5 worth of illness costs.

The report was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and was conducted by researchers at Brandeis University's Schneider Institutes for Health Policy. The study is the first to determine who bears the cost of the disease and found that households account for approximately half of the costs, the government for 24 percent, insurance companies for 22 percent and employers for seven percent, Science Codex reports.

Dengue, which causes excruciating joint pain, is transmitted by mosquitoes and threatens approximately three billion people throughout the world.

"People generally think of dengue as a disease of poor countries; the fact that we found it to be a major burden in a U.S. territory - and because it recently has cropped up on the US mainland - is a reminder that mosquito-borne illnesses can present an equal opportunity threat," Donald Shepard, a co-author of the paper, said, according to Science Codex. "Sound investments related to dengue would benefit not only residents of Puerto Rico but all taxpayers throughout the United States."

In 2010, Puerto Rico experienced its largest outbreak of dengue ever with 22,648 cases. The country averages 16 deaths from dengue per year. Worldwide, an average of 20,000 people die from dengue every year.

"This research documents the other side of dengue, the devastatingly high dollar amount paid by US families and local government," James W. Kazura, the president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said, according to Science Codex. "The type of data provided by this study is essential for policymakers to make evidence-based decisions on public health tools such as disease surveillance and mosquito control campaigns so that we can reduce this economic burden."