Open Jo urnal of Obstetr ics and Gynecology, 2011, 1, 90-93 OJOG
doi:10.4236 /ojog.2011.13016 Published Online September 2011 (
Published Online September 2011 in SciRes.
Perinatal transmission of dengue virus in Puerto Rico: a case
Janice Pér ez -Padilla1*, Rafael Rosario-Casablanca2, Luis Pér ez -Cruz2, Carmen Rivera-Dipini2,
Kay Marie Tomashek1
1Dengue Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers Fo r Disease Contr ol and Prev e ntion, S a n Jua n , P ue rt o Rico;
2HIMA San Pablo Hospital, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
E-mai l : *
Received 17 June 2011; revised 14 July 2011; accepted 25 July 2011.
We report a laboratory confirmed case of vertical
transmission of dengue in a mother-child pair in the
eastern part of Puerto Rico. The clinical course of the
pregnant female suggeste d a GBS infec tion, but labo -
ratory tests confirmed it was dengue infection, one
week after delivery. The male infant was healthy at
birth, but one week after birth developed clinical
complications related to vertical transmission of den-
gue. This re po rt t arg et s physicians i n deng ue endemic
countries like Puerto Rico to be aware of the possibi-
lity of vertical transmission of dengue in symptomatic
pregnant patients, especially around the time of de-
Keywords: Dengue; Perinatal Transmission; Bloodborne
Dengue is caused by four related dengue viruses (DENV)
1, 2, 3, and 4, and infection with one DENV is
thought to provide lifelong immunity to that virus-type
and partial short term protection to other DENVs. Most
DENV infections are asymptomatic especially first infec-
tions. The clinical spectrum of disease ranges from a
mild, non-specific acute febrile illness, to classic dengue
fever (DF) to severe, life-threatening disease including
dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock
syndrome (DSS) [1]. Second and subsequent DENV
(secondary) infections have been associated with more
severe disease.[2]
DENV transmission is primarily between humans
through infected Aedes mosquitoes. The incubation pe-
riod in the human host is typically one week (range 3 to
14 days) with viremia occurring 1 to 2 days before sym-
ptom onset and lasting approximately one week. During
this period of viremia, DENV can also be transmitted as
a blo odb orne i nfecti on whic h has be en ob ser ved fr o m re-
ceipt of donor organs or tissue, blood transfusion [3-6],
after occupational accidents in healthcare settings, and
perinatal trans mission [7,8].
Historically, dengue was thought to be primarily a
childhood disease; however, an increasing proportion of
cases are now being reported among adults [2,9,10]. In
Puerto Rico, half of all reported dengue cases are
adults >20 years of age while adolescents 15 to 19 years
old have the highest incidence of laboratory-confirmed
den- gue; a gro up whose in fa n ts ma ke up ne ar l y one -fifth
of the birth cohort [11]. Because of this, women of child-
bearing age are now increasingly at risk of acquiring
DENV infection while pregnant and may be more likely
to develop severe disease as second infections occur later
in life. Here we describe a unique case of perinatal
DENV transmission involving a teenage mother and her
2.1. Mother
A 17 year old woman, Grava: 1 Para: 1 Abortions: 0
Stillbirth: 0, who regularly attended prenatal care clinic
since 17 weeks gestation, presented to the Emergency
Department (ED) on 16 June 2010. She was 38 4/7
weeks gestation with a chief complaint of fever for one
day, headache, and nausea. The patient had recently
moved to Puerto Rico from Pennsylvania. She had one
previous hospitalization for appendectomy at age 7 and
no chronic medical conditions. The patient denied to-
bacco, alcohol or illicit drug use, and she was HIV, HBV
and RP R non-reactive and Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
positive at 34 weeks gestation. At initial presentatio n, she
had a temperature of 38.3˚C, a heart rate of 140 bpm,
respiratory rate of 18 bpm, and blood pressure of 109/46
mm Hg. She was alert, active and in moderate distress
with complaints of pelvic pain. On physical examination,
her cervix was two centimeters dilated and she was
thought to be in early labor. Laboratory studies included
J. Pérez-Padilla et al. / Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1 (2011) 90-93
Copyright © 2011 Sci Res. OJOG
a complete blood count (CBC) with leukocyte count of
9500 mm3 and a normal differential, hematocrit of 31.7%,
and a platelet count of 105,000 mm3. She was mildly
hyponatremic with serum sodium of 134.0 meq/L. Blood
and urine cultures were taken and the patient was admit-
ted for intrave nous hydr ation and empiric treat ment with
ampicillin and gentamicin for GBS. After intravenous
hydration, the decision was made to transfer the patient
to the delivery room were an amniotomy was
performed to promote active labor. After
hours of
active labor, the patient delivered a male infant at 16:13
on 17 June 2010 by spontaneous vaginal delivery. She
did not have any abnormal bleeding during labor or de-
livery, and did not require any blood products.
The patient continued to have fever and headache for 5
more days, and admission blood and urine cultures, and
placental cultures were all negative. Her platelet count
declined further to a low of 59,000 mm3 on the day of
fever defervescence. That day a serum sample was sent
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Dengue Branch Laboratory in San Juan, Puerto Rico for
dengue diagnostic testing. The patient did not develop
any evidence of plasma leakage as indicated by hemo-
concentration, ascites, pleural effusions, or hypoalbu-
minemia. She did not develop any hemorrhagic manife-
stations other than moderate post partum vaginal bleed-
ing that lasted a bout two weeks. T he patient di d not have
any other signs or symptoms associated with dengue.
However, her aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and ala-
nine aminotranferase (ALT) were slightly elevated at 95
and 46 IU/L, respectively on 22 June 2010, while her
total bilirubin (0.6 mg/dl) remained normal during the
hospital stay. The patient was discharged home on 23
June 2010 with a platelet count of 118,000 mm3, an AST
of 53 IU/L, ALT of 31 IU/L, and a hematocrit of 32.5%.
When evaluated 2 weeks later, she had fully recovered
without any complications.
2.2. Infant
The infant weighted 2,892 grams, and had a length of 20
inches and a head circumference of 13 inches. APGAR
scores were 8 and 9 at one and five minutes after birth,
respectively. The infant was transferred immediately to
the Neonatal Intensive Care U nit (NICU) to be evaluated
for GBS sepsis. Upon admission, the infant had a tem-
perature of 36.5˚C, a heart rate of 141 bpm, a respiratory
rate of 35 bpm, and a blood pressure of 60/43 mm Hg.
Blood and urine cultures were taken and the infant was
given ampicillin and gentamycin empirically. Physical
examination was unremarkable. Laboratory studies showed
a leukocyte count of 11,000 mm3 and a normal differen-
tial, a platele t count of 260,000 mm3, and a hematocrit of
43.5%. Blood and urine cultures taken at birth were
The infant remained stable with no changes observed
in his physical examination, vital signs or behavior until
the evening of June 23, when he became hypoactive and
unable to suck and feed. On physical examination, the
infant had a temperature of 36.5˚C and a heart rate of
130 bpm, respiratory rate of 46 bpm and BP 64/39 mm
Hg. He was pale and had a fine reticular rash. The re-
mainder of his examination was unremarkable. The pa-
tient had no lymphadenopathy, petechiae, ecchymosis,
purpura, or hepatomegaly. Laboratory studies showed a
leukocyte count of 4900 mm3 , a platelet count of 116,000
mm3 and a hematocrit of 36.6%; he was hyponatremic
with a sodium of 130 meq/L. Blood and urine cultures
were taken, and the possibility of a fungal infection was
entertained as there had been recent cases in the hospital.
Antibiotics were changed to vancomycin and imipenem,
and amphotericin was added.
The next day on 24 June, the infant remained hypo-
active, pale, and unable to suck. He had a leukocyte
count of 4600 mm3, a platelet count of 84,000 mm3, and
a hematocrit of 35.6%. No bleeding was observed, and
there was no change in his p hysical e xamination or vital
signs. At this point, the mother’s serum was reported as
positive for DENV-1 by reverse transcriptase-polymerase
chain reaction (RT-PCR). The possibility of vertical
transmission was entertained, and a serum sample was
sent to CDC for diagnostic testing. The infant’s platelet
count decreased to a low of 36,000 mm3 on J une 26 , and
he was given a platelet transfusion. No bleeding was
observed, a head ultrasound was normal, and stool and
urine anal yses wer e negative fo r re d b lo od c e lls. On June
27, laboratory studies showed a prothrombin time (PT)
of 11.4 seconds; partial thromboplastin time (PTT) of
63.3 seconds, and internationa l nor malized ratio (IN R) of
1.05, and the infant was given fresh frozen plasma and
evaluated for disseminated intravascular coagulation
(DIC). His coagulation profile normalized on June 28.
An abdominal ultrasound found prehepatic and peri-
splenic free fluid, suggesting ascites.
Dengue diagnostic results were received on June 29,
which were positive for DENV-1 by RT-PCR. The next
day, the infant was more active and his sucking imp roved.
A C B C sho wed a leukoc yte count of 7100 mm3, a plate-
let count of 98,000 mm3, and a hematocrit of 28.7%. He
was given a packed red blood cell transfusion for sym-
ptomatic anemia with hypoxia (O2 saturation 93%). On
July 7, his platelet count reached normal values for age
(168,000 mm3). The patient had no other complications
and he was discharged home on 18 July 2010.
This case illustrates the importance of considering den-
J. Pérez-Padilla et al. / Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1 (2011) 90-93
Copyright © 2011 Sci Res. OJOG
gue as a cause of acute febrile illness in pregnant women
residing in, or traveling to endemic countries, and sug-
gests that perinatal DENV transmission is likely to be
under-recognized. Unlike other cases reported in the li-
terature [12-31] the infant we described never developed
fever. Newborn infants often do not mount a febrile re-
sponse to an infection, and consequently cases of perina-
tal DENV transmission may be missed if the mother is
not identified as having dengue. This infant had non-
specific findings consistent with congenital dengue in-
cluding hyponatremia, leucopenia, and thrombocytope-
nia, an elevated PTT, and ascites. However, he was di-
agnosed as having dengue because DENV-1 was de-
tected by RT-PCR in his mothe r ’s serum. Perinata l trans-
mission of DENV was supported by the fact that the mo-
ther was acutely febrile at the time of delivery, the infant
never left the hospital after an uneventful delivery and
was unlikely to have had mosquito-borne DENV trans-
mission and all cultures were negative for GBS.
Perinatal dengue, as this case illustrates, may result in
severe dengue and prolonged hospital stays [22]. Of the
33 cases of perinatal DENV transmission reported with
clinical data, all developed fever and thrombocytopenia
in the first two weeks after birth, and 39% had a hemor-
rhagic manifestations, 24% developed hypotension, and
33% had hepatomegaly.
Our case and all of the perinatal transmission cases
described in the literature involved a woman who was
acutely ill with dengue at or near the time of delivery. It
has been hypothesized that when this happens, there is an
insufficient level of protective maternal anti-DENV IgG
to transfer to the fetus as the women is at or near the
peak of DENV viremia. In dengue endemic areas, wo-
men with intrapartum or post partum fever and a nega-
tive evaluation for bacterial or other causes should be
tested for dengue and informed of the risk of perinatal
dengue. Special attention should be paid to their infants
who if infected, might become ill in the first two weeks
of life. As with other diseases, this may mean that the
infant presents with a change in their level of activity,
responsiveness, musc le tone, or ability to suck and s wal-
low, and they may not develop classic signs of dengue
such as fever and rash.
For nearly four decades, the Puerto Rico Department
of Health and CDC have monitored dengue incidence in
Puerto Rico via a passive surveillance system. Even
though dengue has been endemic since the late 1960s
and it is a reportable condition by law, cases are thought
to be under-recognized and under-reported. Pregnancy-
associated dengue cases may not always be reported as
such. Pregnant women with dengue may be diagnosed
with other febrile illnesses or HELLP syndrome, espe-
cially if they present with elevated liver enzymes and a
low platelet cou nt. Since ther e is no rapid diagnostic tes t
for dengue, physicians need to have a high index of su-
spicion and test for dengue while ruling out these other
Future studies should aim to determine the incidence
of perinatal DENV transmission, risk factors for dengue
in the neonate, and poor outcomes among infants born to
women with dengue during pregnancy. Increased aware-
ness of the possibility of maternal dengue and perinatal
transmission is important to prevent complications in
both the mother a nd the newborn.
[1] Gregory, C.J., Santiago, L.M., Arguello, D.F., Hunsper-
ger, E. and Tomashek, K.M. (2010) Clinical and labor-
atory features that differentiate d engue from oth er febrile
illnesses in an endemic area—Puerto rico, 2007 - 2008.
American Journal Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 82,
922-929. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0552
[2] Ooi, E.E., Hart, T.J., Tan, H.C. and Chan, S.H. (2001)
Dengue seroepidemiology in Singapore. Lancet, 357, 685-
686. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)04137-4
[3] Chuang, V.W., Wong, T.Y. and Leung, Y.H., et al. (2008)
Review of dengue fever cases in Hong Kong during 1998
to 2005. Hong Kong Medical Journal, 14, 170-177.
[4] Mohammed, H., Linnen, J.M. and Munoz-Jordan, J.L., et
al. (2008) Dengue virus in blood donations, Puerto Rico,
2005. Transfusion, 48, 1348-1354.
[5] Tambyah, P.A., Koay, E.S., Poon, M.L., Lin, R.V. and
Ong, B.K. (2008) Dengue hemorrhagic fever transmitted
by blood transfusion. New England Journal of Medicine,
359, 1526-1527. doi:10.1056/NEJMc0708673
[6] Wilder-Smith, A., Chen, L.H., Massad, E. and Wilson,
M.E. (2009) Threat of dengue to blood safety in dengue-
endemic countries. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 15,
8-11. doi:10.3201/eid1501.071097
[7] Pouliot, S.H., Xiong, X., Harville, E., et al. (2010)
Maternal dengue and pregnancy outcomes: A systematic
review. Ob st etri cs and Gynecology Survey, 65, 107-118.
[8] Wiwanitkit, V. (2010) Unusual mode of transmission of
dengue. Journal of Infection in Developing Countries, 4,
51-54. doi:10.3855/jidc.145
[9] Guha-Sapir, D. and Schimmer, B. (2005) Dengue fever:
New paradigms for a changing epidemiology. Emerging
Themes in Epidemiology, 2, 1.
doi:10.1186/17 42-7622-2-1
[10] Ooi, E.E., Goh, K.T. and Gobbler, D.J. (2006) Dengue
Prvention and 35 years of vector control in Singapore.
Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12, 887-893.
[11] Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B.E., Sutton, P.D., Ventura, S.J.
and Mathews-Osterman, M.J.K. (2010) Births: Final data
for 2008. National Vital Statistics Report, National Center
for Health Statistics, 59.
[12] Boussemart, T., Babe, P., Sibille, G., Neyret, C. and Ber-
chel, C. (2001) Prenatal transmission of dengue: Two
new cases. Journal of Per inatol o gy, 21, 255-257.
[13] Bunyavejchevin, S., Tanawattanacharoen, S., Taecha-
J. Pérez-Padilla et al. / Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1 (2011) 90-93
Copyright © 2011 Sci Res. OJOG
krai-chana, N., Thisyakorn, U., Tannirandorn, Y. And
Li mp a-Phayom, K. (1997) Dengue hemorrhagic fever
during pregnancy: Antepartum, intrapartum and postpart-
um management. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Research , 23, 445-448.
[14] Carroll, I.D., Toovey, S. and Van, G.A. (2007) Dengue
fever and pregnancy—A review and comment. Travel
Medicine and Infectious Dis eases, 5, 183-188.
[15] Chotigeat, U., Kalayanarooj, S. and Nisalak, A. (2003)
Vertical transmission of dengue infection in Thai infants:
Two case reports. Journal of the Medical Association
Thai, 86, 628-632.
[16] Chye, J.K., Lim, C.T., Ng, K.B., Lim, J.M., George, R.
and Lam, S.K. (1997) Vertical transmission of dengue.
Clinical Infectious Diseases, 25, 1374-1377.
doi:10.1086/51 6126
[17] Fatimil, L.E., Mollah, A.H., Ahmed, S. and Rahman, M.
(2003) Vertical transmission of dengue: First case report
from Bangladesh. Southeast Asian Journal Tropical Me-
dicine and Public Health, 34, 800-803.
[18] Fernandes, C., Silami, V.N., Brasil, P., Herdy, M.E.,
Coelho. J. and Ribeiro, R.M. (2009) Dengue during pre-
gnancy: A study of thirteen cases. American Journal of
Infectio us Disease, 5, 298-303.
[19] Janjindamai, W. and Pruekprasert, P. (2003) Perinatal
dengue infection: A case report and review of literature.
Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medi cine and Public
Health, 34, 793-796.
[20] Kerdpanich, A., Watanaveeradej, V. and Samakoses, R.,
et al. (2001) Perinatal dengue infection. Southeast Asian
Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 32, 488-
[21] Poli, L., Chungue, E., Soulignac, O., Gestas, P., Kuo, P.
and Papouin-Rauzy, M. (1991) Materno-fetal dengue.
Apropos of 5 cases observed during the epidemic in
Tahiti (1989). Bul l etin d e la So ciete de Path o log i e Exotique,
84, 513-521.
[22] Sirinavin, S., Nuntnarumit, P., Supapannachart, S., Boon-
kasidecha, S., Techasaensiri, C. and Yoksarn, S. (2004)
Vertical dengue infection: Case reports and review. Ped-
iatric Infectious Disease Journal, 23, 1042-1047.
[23] Tan, P.C., Rajasingam, G., Devi, S. and Omar, S.Z
(2008) Dengue infection in pregnancy: Prevalence, vert-
ical transmission, and pregnancy outcome. Obstetrics &
Gynecology, 111, 11 11-1117.
[24] Basurko, C., Carles, G., Youssef, M. and Guindi, W.E.
(2009) Maternal and fetal consequences of dengue fever
during pregnancy. European Journal of Obstetrics &
Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 147, 29-32.
[25] Berberian , G., Fariñ, D., Rosanova, M.T., et al. (2011)
Dengue perinatal. Arch Argent Pediatr, 109, 232-236.
[26] Castellanos-Morfín, J., Hernández-Pérez, P., Arellan o-
Cortés, B., Newton-Sánchez, O.A. and Espinoza-Gómez,
F. (2006) Reporte de un caso de dengue neonatal. Boletin
Medico del Hospital Infantil Mexico, 63, 202-206.
[27] Silva-Delgado, H., Ruiz-Rios, J.C., Vel a-Barbaran, E.L.,
et al. (2011) Dengue neonatal en el Perú: Reporte de un
caso. Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud
Publica, 28, 140-144.
[28] Fonseca-Becerra, C.E. and Ba yo n a -Ospina, M.A. (2010)
Dengue en embarazadas y en recién nacidos: Presenta-
ción de dos casos en Neiva (Huila, Colombia) y revisión
de la literatura. Revista Colombiana de Obstetricia y
Ginecologia, 61, 72-77.
[29] Restrepo, B.N., Isaza, D.M. and Salazar, C.L., et al.
(2004) Dengue y embarazo en antioquia, colombia. Revista
de la Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, 22, 7-14.
[30] Carrasco, J.R. and Avila, G.A. (2009) Transmisión vertical
de dengue en honduras: Primer reporte de caso en centro
América. Revista Medica Honduras, 77, 20-22.
[31] González, G., Guerra, A., Malav é, L. and Pérez, P. (2001)
Dengue neonatal: A propósito de un caso. Archivos
Venezolanos de Puericultura y Pediatria, 64, 219.