Dengue fever is widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics, with most infections occurring in SE Asia and the Pacific. Outbreaks are common and often occur in a seasonal pattern. Several or all of the dengue virus serotypes circulate within any one country.
The distribution of dengue continues to expand aided by global warming, urban expansion, population movement and increase in mosquito breeding habitats. For the first time in 2009, dengue transmission occurred locally in Europe after travellers returned home infected with dengue fever.
The cause is a virus spread by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito which mainly bites during the day.
After an incubation period of 4-10 days there is usually a sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle and joint pains. A rash may develop. Within a few days the illness usually resolves and serious complications are uncommon. In a few cases dengue can progress to a more serious form with shock, which can be fatal.
There is no specific anti-viral treatment. Symptoms like headache and fever can be treated symptomatically. Hospital care is indicated in severe illness or if complications occur.
Recommendations for Travellers
Avoid mosquito bites and seek medical attention for feverish illness if you have been in an area where dengue is present. See also information about insect bite avoidance.
At present the World Health Organisation (WHO) is trialling several candidate vaccines against dengue fever.
On December 9 2015, it was announced that the Mexican authorities have introduced the use of the first vaccine to be licensed for the prevention of dengue fever. This vaccine is not availble in the UK.
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