Puerto Rico declares public health emergency over dengue surge

Officials are concerned because the number of cases in 2024 is already almost half of what it was for the whole year of 2023.

A wooden Puerto Rican flag is displayed on the dock of the Condado lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Carlos Giusti / AP

Puerto Rico's health authorities have declared a public health emergency following a significant surge in dengue cases, totaling 549 reported cases so far this year.

“This year, dengue cases have exceeded historical figures. Teams have been working on the integrated plan for prevention and control in response to the arbovirus and we are going to expand these already implemented actions," said Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health Carlos Mellado López in a press release. "It is important to note that the increase in cases has not only been reflected in Puerto Rico, but we have also seen them throughout the region of the Americas." 

Out of the 549 cases, the health department notes that the highest concentration of cases is in their capital of San Juan with 270 cases, followed by Bayamón with 75 cases and Mayagüez with 61 cases.

Officials are concerned because the number of cases so far in 2024 is almost half of what it was for the whole year of 2023, when there were a total of 1,242 cases, with 373 cases in San Juan.

Dengue, a disease spread by mosquito bites, is very common in Puerto Rico, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there currently is no specific treatment for the viral infection, which can be life threatening. 

Mellado López is also encouraging the public to be mindful of symptoms, saying "It is essential to recognize the symptoms early, such as fever, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain, skin rashes and fatigue, as these could be indicative of dengue." 

Residents who experience any of the symptoms mentioned above should contact their primary care physician, officials state.