Dengue infection more serious for elderly persons

Older people who become infected with the dengue virus are more likely to need hospitalization, are more likely to suffer more severe forms of the infection, and are more likely to die compared to any other age group except infants. The findings are a part of the first research study that analyzed the clinical manifestations of dengue infection among persons 65 and older. The findings are described in an English-language article in the June 2003 issue of the "Revista Panamericana de Salud Pblica/Pan American Journal of Public Health," a journal published by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The study was done by Enid J. Garca-Rivera and Jos G. Rigau-Prez, two scientists with the Dengue Branch, a unit of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That CDC unit is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

For their study, the CDC researchers looked at data from more than 17,600 laboratory-confirmed dengue cases for Puerto Rico from 1994 through 1999 and divided those patients into four age groups: infants (up to 23 months of age), youth (2 to 18 years old), adults (19 to 64 years old), and elderly (65 and older). The elderly persons were more likely than the youths and the adults to have been hospitalized, and only slightly less likely so than the infants. The same pattern was true for occurrences of a more severe form of dengue called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF): the elderly were more likely to have suffered DHF than either the youths or adults and only slightly less likely so than the infants. While the number of deaths was small among the dengue cases in Puerto Rico, a similar age pattern held: the death rate among the elderly was higher than among the youths and adults and statistically about the same as for the infants.

After being brought under control in many tropical areas of the world, dengue fever has been re-emerging over the last several decades, and some 2.5 to 3.0 billion persons now live in parts o

Contact: Mara Luisa Clark
Pan American Health Organization

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