Dengue is a viral infection spread to people by infected mosquitoes. In most cases there are no symptoms, but the infection can occasionally develop into a more severe form. Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics, where nearly 100 million cases are thought to occur every year.1,2
Dengue occurs in over 100 countries worldwide,1 in the tropics and subtropics. Particularly affected areas include the Caribbean, South and Central America, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific Islands, though outbreaks have also occurred in Southern Europe.1,2 Anyone travelling to countries where dengue is common is at risk of infection, especially if you are visiting for a long time and staying in urban areas. Travellers rarely catch severe dengue, which is mainly caught by children who live in affected areas.1,2
Most dengue infections have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, which usually start around 4–10 days after the mosquito bite. These include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, nausea (feeling sick), vomiting and skin rash. Symptoms will normally resolve by themselves within a few days.1,2 In a few cases severe dengue will develop; symptoms include dangerously low blood pressure, build-up of fluid in the lungs and severe bleeding.1
The best way to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito bites. As the mosquitoes that spread dengue usually bite during daylight hours, you should wear long clothes and use repellents all day, and take special care in the hours around dawn and dusk.1,2
There is no specific antiviral treatment for dengue. If you think you or your child might have the illness you should consult a doctor, who will be able to provide treatments for symptoms such as fever and headache. In rare cases of severe dengue or complications, it is essential to seek hospital care.1,2
Make sure you contact your GP or travel health practitioner in plenty of time before you travel to discuss the ways you can help to keep yourself healthy whilst away. You should try and contact them at least 4–6 weeks before your trip.
After your trip, you should contact your GP if you develop a fever or notice any other unusual symptoms.
Date of preparation: November 2017