NBC News Spotlights Dr. Michael von Fricken

Unprecedented Dengue Fever Outbreak Poses a Growing Threat

NBC Nightly News turned to mosquito-borne disease expert and EGH associate professor Dr. Michael von Fricken May 28 for his expertise on the issue.

Latin America is grappling with its most severe dengue fever outbreak on record, driven by unusually warm and wet conditions attributed to the El Niño weather pattern. Case numbers in the first four and a half months of 2024 have surged by 238% compared to last year, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

This year’s outbreak has alarmed public health officials, since cases are already 400% higher than the five-year average. The spread of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of the dengue virus, is being facilitated by climate change, extending their range into new regions, including parts of North America and Europe.

Dr. Michael von Fricken, University of Florida Department of Environmental and Global Health associate professor and the director of the UF One Health Center of Excellence, weighed in on the critical situation.

According to NBC News, humans serve as reservoirs for dengue, meaning widespread transmission requires a sufficient number of infected individuals to sprea.d

“That’s why we’re seeing an outbreak of dengue in Puerto Rico right now,” Dr. von Fricken said in the NBC News story. “They’ve reached this tipping point where there are enough infected humans that they’re subsequently infecting other mosquitoes that are continuing to transmit disease.”

Florida has seen 176 cases of dengue just this year, with many of its people becoming infected in Brazil and Cuba. In Gainesville, the City of Gainesville couples mosquito-eating fish with insecticides to fend off the mosquitos.

To tackle the rising issue, people must combine multiple strategies to deter mosquitos away.

Read the full NBC News story here.

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