Suffolk County health officials reported Wednesday that a Town of Babylon resident contracted dengue virus—the first ever locally acquired case in New York State.
The Suffolk resident was only identified as a male over the age of 50 living in the Town of Babylon. He was hospitalized for the virus in September and has since fully recovered, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services Dr. James Tomarken said Wednesday.
“The exact route of transmission in this case is unknown,” Tomarken said. “However, we have determined that this individual acquired dengue virus locally, as he had not traveled outside of the local metropolitan area during the incubation period.”
The virus, which is transmitted by mosquito bite, is significant, Tomarken said, because it’s the first known case of the virus being contracted locally.
Suffolk County had two confirmed cases of dengue virus in 2011 and 2012, but both individuals were believed to have been infected while traveling in dengue endemic regions of the world.
The health department noted that the virus was “likely” transmitted locally from a mosquito which had previously bitten an infected traveler.
Local and state health officials said that this is an isolated incident and is not expected to become widespread in the region.
“This finding emphasizes the need for physicians to be aware of signs and symptoms of diseases common in tropical countries, but may occasionally present themselves in New York,” State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said.
Health officials estimate that there are more than 100 million cases of dengue annually worldwide. The only areas in which dengue fever transmission has routinely occurred are southern Florida, southern Texas and Hawaii, officials said.
Symptoms of the virus include high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash and mild bleeding or bruising, according to the Suffolk health department. A more severe form of the virus, Dengue Hemorrhagic, can be fatal—though it typically occurs when a person is infected a second time.
“There is no immunization for dengue virus, and there is no specific treatment for a dengue infection. Individuals with symptoms are advised to consult their health care providers,” the Suffolk health department said in a press release.
Residents are advised to take preventive measures like they would any mosquito-borne disease by eliminating stagnant water near homes.