Guam’s robust response to the dengue fever infection earned kudos last night at an informational briefing attended by parents, teachers and Guam Department of Education staffers turned out to get the latest on dengue and the efforts to control and mitigate the mosquito-borne disease.
Just because the dengue virus is here on Guam doesn’t mean that it will be present in the future. Dr. Thane Hancock, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), was quick to share that Guam is combating the virus so that dengue does not become endemic to the island.
At the informational briefing, stakeholders posed various questions in hopes of gaining clarity on the dengue infection. One question posed by the public stemmed off of the old adage what came first the chicken or the egg? Hancock says that it is far more plausible that the emergence of dengue on the island was brought on by a person who contracted the virus elsewhere and came to Guam where the individual then got bit by a local mosquito triggering the infection of local mosquitoes.
Now that it’s here, the government of Guam has taken a united front in their approach by educating island residents about reducing the prevalence of mosquitoes around their homes. This raised the question is the dengue virus transmittable to mosquito larvae through the laying of eggs by an infected mosquito?
“Generally, for dengue, that’s not the case and so for the most, it’s not the case. That being said, our world is a big world, and there is nothing absolute. They have found in very rare instances once in a while that it might transmit to the eggs. But for the most part, it doesn’t,” Hancock said.
Another parent questioned: “What is being done to isolate the patients who were infected?”
This was answered by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero who was trained as a nurse.
“In previous discussions with other experts on dengue fever, the way to isolate them is just to tell them to avoid getting bitten by the mosquito. And if you are having signs and symptoms of dengue in the house, don’t go out until you are without the fever and then that’s when you are considered non-contagious,” the governor said.
But this is not because you will infect the person next to you. Instead, it’s to avoid infecting other mosquitoes.
The governor says government resources are being used to clear debris in areas deemed high risk, educating the public and bringing in experts to help respond to the infection.
Serious concerns were raised as just last month there was no dengue virus on island and in a matter of weeks, the number of confirmed cases has risen to seven with high-risk areas being Mangilao, Ordot/Chalan Pago, and Dededo.
But this is not the first time Guam has had a dengue scare, PNC posed a question as it related to the first scare 75 years ago, asking whether or not the government and military were exploring the use of military aircraft to spray the island and whether or not that would be effective in combating the infection.
“I can say that Guam has been in discussion with CDC entomologists and Fort Collins, discussing options and what is the best way really to try to reduce and limit the spread of infection. And within those discussions, all options are being evaluated,” Dr. Hancock said.
He added that the targeted spraying of the high-risk areas has really been the priority but Public Health has been exploring advice from the CDC about looking at the initial response and contingency plans should more cases be confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control has issued a level one travel watch for Guam, which means travelers should take usual precautions, including the avoidance of mosquitoes. Saipan has also issued a travel advisory for Guam due to the ongoing dengue outbreak.