September 8, 2010
Puerto Rican government authorities have declared a public health emergency following the deaths of 10 people from dengue fever. The emergency declaration will result doctors’ receiving a course in the detection and treatment of the disease. A public awareness campaign is also being ramped up to prevent further spread of the disease.
Dengue infections are on pace to break historic records. The total number of deaths attributable to the disease may reach 32 so far this year in Puerto Rico, outpacing the previous high mark of 19 deaths and over 11,000 cases of diagnosed dengue in 1998. Total suspected cases of dengue this year have already totaled over 12,000.
Actions by both patients and doctors have been blamed for the increase in fatalities with officials noting that doctors have not been providing appropriate follow-up care, while patients have insisted on leaving hospitals while still infected with the disease or not seeking immediate help. Chief epidemiologist Carmen de la Seda calls the problem serious, but she has thus far rejected claims that the epidemic is out of control.