What is Dengue Fever and Should I be Worried About it?

Welcome to the latest addition of travel advice from our STA Travel Clinics. This week Our Travel Nurse Michelle is going to be telling us everything we could possibly need to know about Dengue Fever.

Dengue fever is something of a pet subject for me after contracting it whilst on a back-packing trip in Thailand and Malaysia long before I was a travel medicine specialist (and didn’t know anything about it, including how to avoid it!).

Large outbreaks occur each year in Asia, Western Pacific and Latin America but it is also reported in East Africa. However, over recent years, cases have also been reported in Australia, France, Croatia and Madeira too.

Dengue fever is definitely something travellers should be aware of, here are the basic facts but be sure to talk to a Travel Clinic/your GP before travelling to get advice on whether you might be at risk in the area you’re visiting.

Aedes Mosquito.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is a viral infection spread by Aedes mosquitoes which live in urban and semi-urban environments and bite mainly during the day.

The global incidence is increasing with around half the world’s population thought to be at risk. The World Health Organisation estimates there are 50-100 million cases each year.

• In some regions outbreaks are seen at the same time each year often corresponding to the rainy season when mosquitoes breeding sites increase.

• Dengue in travellers is thought to be vastly under-reported as many people don’t seek medical attention or become ill and recover whilst abroad. In 2012, 343 cases were officially imported in travellers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

• Chikungunya virus (one of my favourite disease names!) is a similar infection transmitted in the same way which is present in many areas in Asia, Indian Ocean Islands and Africa. The symptoms are very similar although joint pain can be severe and more prolonged.

What are the Symptoms?

• Dengue fever infection causes a flu-like illness with symptoms including high fever, headache, rashes and muscular/joint pain.

• There are 4 distinct forms of dengue fever (DEN1-4), so you can get the disease more than once if exposed to different strains. Repeated infection with another strain can increase the chances of developing severe dengue.

• Symptoms usually last for 2-7 days.

• Sometimes people can develop ‘severe Dengue’ which is potentially life threatening. This is characterised by extreme shock and sometimes bleeding. Prompt, effective medical treatment can reduce the death rate from 20{8105bc8a7da0e4ee2985a05e217cd0e1bef95b551bf8bafd62a449e444182173} to 1{8105bc8a7da0e4ee2985a05e217cd0e1bef95b551bf8bafd62a449e444182173}. Thankfully severe dengue is still rare in travellers.

How to Avoid it

• There is currently no vaccine to prevent dengue fever. A number of vaccines are in development but it still could be a number of years before one is commercially available.

• Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites especially during the day. Unlike malaria mosquitoes, dengue mosquitoes feed during daylight hours with bite peaks in the morning and before dusk. They often rest in dark rooms. Use an effective repellent (DEET 40-50{8105bc8a7da0e4ee2985a05e217cd0e1bef95b551bf8bafd62a449e444182173} or lemon eucalyptus based repellents) on exposed skin. Make sure you put sun protection on first and allow to absorb for a few minutes before putting repellents on.

Take it from me, Dengue fever is best avoided! Remember to put repellent on during the day as well as the evening and consult a medical professional if you start to suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above.

If you’re going travelling soon it’s important that you consult a health care professional to find out whether there are any potential health risks in the area(s) you will be visiting. Here at STA Travel we currently operate 4 STA Travel Clinics with qualified nurses on hand to offer advice, book a consultation now.