Dengue isn’t a disease that only happens somewhere else. Public healthcare officials in Texas had a stark reminder of this in late 2013, when research showed that dengue has been present in the city of Houston since 2003.
So why didn’t anyone notice dengue at the time? Well, according to research published in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases even though Houston is an ideal environment for dengue-carrying mosquitoes, officials didn’t seem to think it was going to affect them. No one was looking out for dengue, so it took the city by surprise.
Healthcare officials in the US are going to have to change their attitude. There have already been isolated dengue outbreaks in Florida and Hawaii, and mosquitoes are expanding their reach. Some scientists blame a change in the climate for the presence of dengue-carrying mosquitoes in California’s Central Valley and San Francisco Bay. In 2013 there were even reports of dengue in New York. But there is no apparent logic to dengue’s return, and scientists are struggling to understand why some cities are worse hit than others.
Whatever the reasons, the emergence of dengue is a wake-up call for public health officials in the USA. This isn’t someone else’s problem anymore.