Travel Health Information Sheets
Dengue fever is a viral illness spread by day-biting mosquitoes. Symptoms are typically: a severe, flu-like illness, with fever, headache, muscle ache and a rash.
Where is it found?
Dengue is common in parts of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Western Pacific (see map below).
How can I catch it?
Dengue is spread by a day biting mosquito. Your chance of being bitten is highest a couple of hours after sunrise and just before sunset - the times when these mosquitoes feed most intensely.
Signs and symptoms:
- Intense joint and muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Red rash
- Severe headache
Courtesy of US CDC
Symptoms usually appear five to eight days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people will recover within one to two weeks. However sometimes, a potentially fatal complication, called dengue haemorrhagic fever can develop. This is rare in travellers and mainly occurs in young children growing up in risk areasl.
Research shows that living or spending long periods of time in tropical countries where dengue fever is common, especially during the transmission season, increases risk. However, even short-term visitors can be affected – it only takes a single mosquito bite.
There is no specific treatment for dengue. In most people symptoms can be managed by taking paracetamol (you should avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other similar drugs), drinking plenty of fluids and resting.
Warning signs for the rare dengue haemorrhagic fever include:
tiny bloods spots or large patches of blood under your skin, bleeding from the gums or nose, persistent vomiting and severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood or black, tarry stools. If you have any of these symptoms, you must seek immediate medical assistance.
There is no vaccine to prevent dengue, so avoiding mosquito bites is the only way to prevent infection.
Updated July 2013
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