On Sept. 12, Guam's first locally acquired case of dengue fever in 75 years was confirmed.
More than two months later, the island's total number of confirmed locally acquired dengue cases rose to 13, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services confirmed Tuesday. With the seven dengue cases that were acquired off island, the confirmed locally acquired case Tuesday raised the total to 20.
Given the increase in such a short time – after zero locally acquired dengue cases for more than seven decades – we need to keep avoiding mosquitoes that can carry the disease.
Some patients with dengue fever go on to develop dengue hemorrhagic fever, a severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around the time the fever begins to subside – usually three to seven days after symptom onset – the patient may develop signs of the more severe disease.
When the initial dengue cases were confirmed, there were robust efforts to keep the public informed of ways to avoid mosquito bites. In recent weeks, up until the last two additional cases were confirmed, public awareness campaigns had waned.
"This new locally acquired case demonstrates how important it is for the Guam community to maintain efforts to reduce mosquitoes and avoid mosquito bites," Public Health stated Tuesday.
According to Public Health, anyone who travels to where the dengue virus is found can catch it from mosquitoes. Wearing long-sleeve tops and long pants and spraying skin-friendly bug repellent can help prevent that.
The department also encourages the community to eliminate mosquito breeding sites to help stop the spread of the dengue virus.
As for the disease, here are some useful things to know:
• A person infected with the dengue virus usually will have the fever for two to seven days.
• A person with dengue fever can infect mosquitoes with the dengue virus.
• Therefore, during the time an infected person is feverish, he or she should remain indoors and avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
• A person with dengue fever should not go to school or work.
We echo Public Health's reminder for island residents to see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms of dengue fever: fever; aches and pains; rash; and mild bleeding usually around the nose or gums.
Visit your nearest hospital emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms of severe dengue fever: severe abdominal pain; persistent vomiting; significant bleeding; lethargy or restlessness, according to Public Health. A blood test is the only way to confirm the diagnosis, the department added.