A Dengue Outbreak among Camp Participants in a Caribbean Island, 1995

Rob Lyerla, José G. Rigau‐Pérez, A. Vance Vorndam, Paul Reiter, Aubrey M. George, Irad M. Potter, Duane J. Gubler
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2310/7060.2000.00022 59-63 First published online: 1 March 2000


Background: Dengue, a mosquito‐transmitted viral disease, is a risk for visitors in tropical and subtropical areas. Several participants in a community‐assistance program in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, in August, 1995, reported dengue‐like symptoms either before or soon after leaving the island.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study to determine the extent of the outbreak, risk factors for illness, and the proportion of inapparent infections. Program participants were interviewed by telephone or mail, and asked to submit a serum sample for dengue diagnosis. A clinically‐diagnosed case of dengue was defined as a person with fever and two or more of the following: headache, retro‐orbital pain, myalgia, arthralgia, rash, or hemorrhagic manifestations. Serum specimens were tested for virus isolation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), plaque‐reduction neutralization (PRNT) or anti‐dengue IgM and IgG antibody.

Results: Thirty‐two (97%) of the 33 program participants responded; 21 of the 32 (66%) provided at least one serum sample for study. The median age was 17 years; 20 (62%) were women. Of 32 respondents, 22 (69%) met the clinical case definition for dengue: 15 of them (68%) had a positive IgM antibody response and 7 did not submit a serum sample. Dengue 1 virus (DEN‐1) was identified by PCR in one case and all 11 positive PRNT results. No asymptomatic infections were identified. No respondent used effective mosquito repellent, and only 2 (6%) used bednets.

Conclusion: A DEN‐1 outbreak with a high attack rate (69%) occurred in a group of young short‐term community aid workers. There were no asymptomatic infections documented. Participants' rare use of bednets or effective mosquito repellent highlights the importance of providing travelers to tropical areas with information about dengue fever and the recommended precautions to protect against infection.