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Dengue Fever

Introduction

Dengue is an infection spread by mosquito bites that can cause a severe flu-like illness.

Recommendations for Travellers

The best way to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • The mosquitoes that transmit dengue bite during the day, from dawn until dusk.
  • During these hours your skin should be covered up with long, loose fitting clothing.
  • Insect repellent should be applied to any exposed areas of skin, and reapplied as suggested by the manufacturer’s instructions.

You must seek medical attention if you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling, or on your return home.

There is no vaccine available against dengue fever for travellers.

  • A vaccine for some people living in dengue-affected countries (and who have had dengue before) may be available in those countries.

Overview of the Disease

Dengue is the second most commonly identified cause of fever in unwell international travellers. It is due to infection with a virus called dengue virus.

Dengue virus is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are usually of the species Aedes aegypti, and can be recognised by the white stripes on their legs. They mainly bite during the day.

Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics, occurring in more than 120 countries.

  • Nearly 100 million cases of dengue are thought to occur every year.
  • Severe infection mainly affects infants and children living in the tropics and subtropics.
  • Outbreaks of dengue are common and often occur in a seasonal pattern.
  • Outbreaks due to imported infection have been reported in Southern Europe.

The Illness

Most dengue infections produce no symptoms, or result in mild symptoms only.

Between 4-10 days after the mosquito bites, a sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle and joint pains may occur. A rash may also develop.

  • The illness usually gets better within a few days to a week, and serious complications are uncommon.
  • In 1–2% of cases, dengue can progress to a more serious illness, called severe dengue, which can be fatal.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for dengue, but people who have symptoms should consult a doctor for advice.

  • Mild symptoms such as headache and fever can usually be treated at home by taking over-the-counter medicines (like paracetamol), getting plenty of rest and keeping well hydrated.
  • Hospital care may be needed if severe illness or complications develop.

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