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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Immediate preventive action urged against dengue, now a public health emergency

HealthproMed: Vaccine available for the pediatric population

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By The Star Staff

In light of the recent declaration of a dengue epidemic by the island Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit, a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, is urging the public to take immediate preventive measures against the spread of dengue in the archipelago.

The directive -- Administrative Order 2024-589, signed Tuesday by Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López -- comes at a crucial time when community participation and individual actions are critical in combating the increase in cases.

Dengue, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, poses a significant risk to public health. However, the prevention of the disease is possible through the adoption of simple and effective measures.

The Vector Control Unit emphasized the importance of eliminating mosquito breeding sites, avoiding the accumulation of water in containers and brushing the inside walls of containers to remove mosquito eggs, and eliminating tires and other containers that can serve as habitat for these vectors.

In addition, it is recommended that screens be installed on doors and windows, along with wearing appropriate clothing such as light-colored long sleeves and pants, and applying insect repellents as additional protective measures.

“The declaration of an epidemic is a call to action. Every person has the power to make a significant contribution to dengue prevention. By taking simple preventive measures, we can protect our families and communities from the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Julieanne Miranda, associate director of the Vector Control Unit, in a written statement. “Our team continues to work collaboratively with the Department of Health on mosquito surveillance and control strategies, but community engagement is essential in this fight. Together, we can make a difference.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, HealthproMed, a nonprofit organization and community health center, activated a plan to unite its efforts to prevent and combat dengue, and announced the availability of the dengue vaccine for the pediatric population, including minors who are part of the immigrant population.

HealthproMed Executive Director Ivonne Rivera, accompanied by the organization’s main clinical adviser, pediatrician Dr. Héctor Villanueva, announced that, following the declaration of the public health emergency due to dengue, “HealthproMed once again joins the efforts of the Puerto Rico Department of Health in protecting public health, this time against the Dengue epidemic.”

“Our commitment to public health is reflected in the work of our health professionals in the prevention and control of dengue,” Rivera said in a written statement. “So much so that we were honored last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health for leading vaccination against dengue on the island.”

Villanueva detailed the indications for the dengue vaccine: “The dengue vaccine that we have available was approved for use in children aged 9 to 16 years with previous laboratory-confirmed infection, and who live in endemic areas like Puerto Rico.”

“It is part of the recommended vaccination schedule for children,” he said. “Dengvaxia, the only dengue vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended for routine use by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, became available in 2022.”

Rivera added that most health plans cover routine recommended vaccines, which are eligible for the Medicaid program or covered for Plan Vital beneficiaries.

Dr. Melissa Marzán, the Health Department’s chief epidemiology officer of the Department of Health, reiterated the classification of the dengue epidemic as a public health emergency on the island.

“The latest report reveals an alarming increase in dengue cases, with an increase of 140% compared to the same period last year,” she said. “As of March 25, 2024, the Department of Health has reported 549 dengue cases under surveillance and 341 hospitalizations so far this year.”

More information about dengue vaccination at HealthproMed can be obtained by contacting 787-268-4171, ext. 4008.

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1 Comment

Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
Mar 28

Dengvaxia is only recommended in those who have previously had dengue fever or populations in which most people have been previously infected due to phenomenon known as antibody-dependent enhancement.[12] The value of Dengavaxia is limited by the fact that it may increase the risk of severe dengue in those who have not previously been infected.”

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