Dengue transmission risk maps of the continental United States

Aleisha J Elliott, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Dengue fever is a strictly human and non-human primate disease characterized by a high fever, thrombocytopenia, retro-orbital pain, and severe joint and muscle pain. Over 40% of the world population is at risk. Recent re-emergence of dengue outbreaks in Texas and Florida following the re-introduction of competent Aedes mosquito vectors in the United States have raised growing concerns about the potential for increased occurrences of dengue fever outbreaks throughout the southern United States. Current deficiencies in vector control, active surveillance and awareness among medical practitioners may contribute to a delay in recognizing and controlling a dengue virus outbreak. Previous studies have shown links between low-income census tracts, high population density, and dengue fever within the United States. Areas of low-income and high population density that correlate with the distribution of Aedes mosquitoes result in higher potential for outbreaks. In this retrospective ecologic study, nine maps were generated to model U.S. census tracts’ potential to sustain dengue virus transmission if the virus was introduced into the area. Variables in the model included presence of a competent vector in the county and census tract percent poverty and population density. Thirty states, 1,188 counties, and 34,705 census tracts were included in the analysis. Among counties with Aedes mosquito infestation, the census tracts were ranked high, medium, and low risk potential for sustained transmission of the virus. High risk census tracts were identified as areas having the vector, ≥20% poverty, and ≥500 persons per square mile. Census tracts with either ≥20% poverty or ≥500 persons per square mile and have the vector present are considered moderate risk. Census tracts that have the vector present but have <20% poverty and <500 persons per square mile are considered low risk. Furthermore, counties were characterized as moderate risk if 50% or more of the census tracts in that county were rated high or moderate risk, and high risk if 25% or greater were rated high risk. Extreme risk counties, which were primarily concentrated in Texas and Mississippi, were considered having 50% or greater of the census tracts ranked as high risk. Mapping of geographic areas with potential to sustain dengue virus transmission will support surveillance efforts and assist medical personnel in recognizing potential cases.

Subject Area

Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Elliott, Aleisha J, "Dengue transmission risk maps of the continental United States" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1520196.