Dengue is a now a common virus transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including South East Asia, Africa, the Americas and Northern Queensland. It is fast becoming a major international health concern with increasing outbreaks in many countries. Travellers to these regions should try to minimise mosquito bites.
Thousands of travellers each year return to WA from Bali and Thailand with dengue.
The main mosquito which transmits the virus is Aedes Aegypti. This particular mosquito likes to bite during the daylight hours. It breeds in freshwater containers such as pots, tyres and also palm fronds. Unlike malaria, dengue is most common in urban areas. For both these reasons it has increased exponentially with urbanisation and travel.
The disease usually presents between 4-7 days after being bitten by infected mosquitoes with a sudden onset of high fever, body aches, pain behind the eyes and severe fatigue lasting for around a week or two, with the potential to severely disrupt holiday plans or work, if the disease occurs after the traveller has returned home. Most individuals make a full recovery, however occasionally severe complications may occur requiring hospital admission and prolonged recovery. Severe Dengue can be fatal and is more common after subsequent dengue infection.
24 hour Mosquito avoidance measures are most important.
Use a tropical strength DEET or Picaridin containing repellent every 4-8 hours during daylight hours (frequency of application depends on the strength of the repellent). Wear long loose-fitting clothing if practical. Stay in accommodation with air conditioning or insect screens on windows and doors.
There is a relatively new vaccine providing protection against dengue fever. It can only be given to an individual who has already had clinically diagnosed dengue fever. A course of 3 injections, the vaccine is not readily available in Australia, requires Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) approval prior to ordering and is currently costing between $700 – $800 per shot. Anyone who would like more information should make an appointment with one of our doctors. Because of these reasons it is not used commonly in travellers.
There is no cure for dengue. Treatment involves rest, hydration and paracetamol for pain and fever. Severe dengue requires treatment in a hospital setting. If you have a high fever after visiting tropical or subtropical regions, and even if you are back in Australia – don’t delay seeking medical help and make sure you mention your travel history.