❗ Dozens have dengue fever in New Jersey

❓ Will the virus spread in the Garden State?

❓ What are the dangers and symptoms dengue infection?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert this week about record increases in cases of dengue fever worldwide, including New Jersey.

Dengue infections have doubled year-over-year to a record 9.7 million cases across the world. That includes 42 infections in New Jersey.

This article details how the virus is spread, symptoms of dengue and the likelihood you could be infected.

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is caused when a person is infected by the dengue virus.

The virus is transmitted by mosquito.

It is most commonly found in Africa and other tropical climates.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

There are four types of dengue virus, simply known as 1, 2, 3 and 4. When someone is first infected, their body builds antibodies against that type for life.

If they get infected with another type of dengue, the antibodies from the first infection may fail to neutralize the second type — and actually can help the virus enter immune cells and replicate.

How is dengue spread?

The dengue virus is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites another individual. That individual can also be infected.

According to the National Institute of Health, dengue virus has also been detected in non-human primates like monkeys and apes as well as in pigs, marsupials, bats, birds, horses, rodents and dogs.

There is a potential for mosquitoes to bite an infected animal and then transmit the virus to humans, but the NIH says, "infection among animals is still limited in evidence."

Pregnant people with dengue can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.

The current range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It can transmit dengue fever, ziki virus and yellow fever. Map credit: CDC
The current range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It can transmit dengue fever, ziki virus and yellow fever.
Map credit: CDC

Can dengue be spread from person-to-person?

It is highly unlikely.

The virus is not transmitted through skin contact and is not airborne.

It can only be transmitted through infected blood.

In theory, if a person were to come in contact with human blood infected with dengue, the virus might be transmitted from person-to-person.

What are the symptoms of dengue?

According to the CDC, symptoms of dengue fever usually appear 4–7 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito and can last 3–10 days.

They include:

✔ High fever
✔ Severe headache
✔ Pain behind the eyes
✔ Joint pain
✔ Muscle and/or bone pain
✔ Rash
✔ Mild nose or gum bleeding
✔ Easy bruising
✔ Low white cell count
✔ Low platelet count

In severe cases, dengue virus can lead to severe bleeding, shock and death.

How did the people from New Jersey get infected?

The 42 individuals who have been confirmed to be infected were exposed to the virus while traveling.

The CDC and state health officials have not said where the individuals had traveled to, but dengue is most common in Africa and tropical destinations.

New Jersey Department of Health statistics show infections have been confirmed in 15 New Jersey Counties.

READ MORE: CDC issues virus alert for New Jersey

Can the virus spread in New Jersey?


According to the CDC, the number of dengue cases will likely expand as higher temperatures extend the range of the tropical mosquitoes that carry it.

However, dengue is most typically spread by a tropical mosquito which is not widespread in New Jersey.

The mosquito has been detected in New Jersey, but it typically does not survive through winter in the Garden State.

It can possibly be spread by other mosquitoes in New Jersey, but only if they bite an infected individual.

What mosquito transmits dengue virus?

Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

This is the same mosquito that transmits other tropical viruses, including yellow fever and zika virus.

The Aedes_aegypti mosquito By Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Facebook Micro2Macro Photography
The Aedes_aegypti mosquito
By Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Facebook Micro2Macro Photography

According to the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, While Aedes aegypti has occasionally been found in New Jersey in very small numbers, it is unlikely to establish a permanent population in the state due to our moderate climate.

Once infected, the mosquito can spread the virus for the rest of its life, which can last up to a month.

The most common mosquito in New Jersey is the Northern House Mosquito Photograph by Lawrence E. Reeves, University of Florida
The most common mosquito in New Jersey is the Northern House Mosquito
Photograph by Lawrence E. Reeves, University of Florida

How can I protect myself from dengue virus?

The best way to protect yourself is limiting exposure to mosquitoes that can carry dengue or other dangerous viruses.

✔ Limit your time outside in the early morning and at dusk.

✔ Always wear an FDA approved mosquito repellent.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these additional steps can be taken to limit exposure to mosquito bites:

✔ Keep mosquitoes away from exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.
✔ Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing where mosquitoes can get to your skin.
✔ Stay indoors when possible, especially if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect.
✔ Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents when necessary and follow label directions and precautions closely.
✔ Use head nets, long sleeves and long pants if you venture into areas with high mosquito populations, such as salt marshes.
✔ Replace your outdoor lights with yellow "bug" lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights. The yellow lights are NOT repellents, however.

Previous reporting from Dan Alexander was included in this story.

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