The First Epidemic of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever in French Guiana

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  • Centre de Reference pour la Dengue et la Fievre Jaune, Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, Departement de Virologie, Institut Pasteur, Cayenne, French Guiana, France

From July 1991 to October 1992, an outbreak of dengue spread into the main urban areas of French Guiana, where 90% of the country's 114,808 inhabitants live. In mid-July 1991 dengue-2 virus was identified as being responsible for most cases, while dengue-1 virus was rarely isolated and circulated at a low level. The number of dengue cases during this period was unknown because there was no clinically based dengue surveillance system. The only available data were for the number of suspected cases as indicated by the number of patients for whom blood samples were submitted to a laboratory for dengue diagnosis. Eight hundred forty-seven of the 2,948 suspected cases were diagnosed in the laboratory as dengue cases. Six fatal cases were reported. This outbreak was marked by the appearance of the first clinical cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) in French Guiana. Forty cases met the World Health Organization definition of clinical DHF: 32 were grade II, seven were grade III, and one was grade IV and fatal. Eighteen cases were confirmed in the laboratory and 12 were probable; there was no proof of the dengue etiology for the remaining patients.