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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 6) – The World Health Organization has warned that a major outbreak of dengue fever is likely in the Western Pacific region, where it has already caused hundreds of deaths this year.

There are no current cases of dengue on Guam, and the Department of Public Health and Social Services is taking steps to try to keep it that way.

"Since we have plenty of mosquitoes here, outbreaks of dengue have always been a big concern of the health department," Robert Haddock, Public Health epidemiologist.

Dengue cannot be spread from person to person -- it is spread from a mosquito carrying the disease. Symptoms include headaches, joint pain and rash.

While the most common mosquito that carries the disease -- Aedes Aegypti -- does not exist on Guam, Aedes Albopictus, which has been responsible for outbreaks in Hawaii, does thrive here.

Guam averages less than one case of dengue a year. The last report of a dengue infection on Guam was a 2-year-old boy in November.

But Haddock noted that nearby Palau is currently suffering through a dengue outbreak.

According to Haddock, the Department of Public Health is developing a "vector control program" in conjunction with the U.S. Navy and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that will measure Guam's mosquito populations and assess the risk of an outbreak.

Haddock said that a swelled mosquito population could promote dengue.

In the case of a full outbreak, Haddock admitted that there would not be much the Department of Public Health could do. No vaccine exists and antiviral drugs are ineffective.

"We just try to keep people informed. Prevention is a much better option here," he said.

Anyone infected should remain in their home for 3 to 5 days to prevent contact with mosquitoes. To minimize the spread of dengue, the Department of Health advises that any containers with standing water should be removed to prevent mosquito breeding.

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