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Dengue Fever

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue Fever is a viral illness (due to a virus) transmitted by a mosquito bite (from an Aedes type mosquito).

This illness is very widespread in tropical and sub-tropical regions: more than 100 countries are concerned, essentially throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean.

The mosquito responsible for Dengue Fever lives in both rural and urban areas; it resists temperature changes and bites at night and during the day, unlike its nocturnal cousin, the Anopheles mosquito responsible for Malaria.

What are the signs of Dengue Fever and how do you treat it?

Usually, Dengue Fever is a benign illness with symptoms similar to the flu. Incubation lasts 2-7 days before a high fever, headaches, muscular and joint pains, and a skin rash on the hands and feet occur.

No specific Dengue Fever treatment exists, but medication can be prescribed to treat these symptoms (antipyretics or analgesics like paracetamol or codeine for fever and pains). Aspirin, however, should be avoided.

In most cases, the illness is cured after a long convalescence. Sometimes Dengue Fever can transform into a much more serious illness – Hemorrhagic Dengue. This is characterised by major abdominal pains, a bloody nose and blood infiltrations under the skin (purpura). The outcome can be fatal, particularly for children under 15 years of age and for people suffering from immune deficiency.

How to prevent Dengue Fever?

Neither a vaccine nor a specific treatment exists. It is therefore critical to take individual precautionary measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites. These measure are essential in zones endemic with Dengue Fever, or during seasonal outbreaks of the disease. Here are a few easy-to-follow recommendations to help you significantly reduce the risks:  

  • Protect windows with fine-mesh screens. The screens should be in good condition and treated, if possible, with an insecticide, 

  • Have air-conditioning working in the room, 

  • Sleep under a mosquito net (in good condition), treated with insecticide. It should fall and touch the floor or be tucked under the mattresses, 

  • Do not stay outside at night for too long, 

  • Wear clothing with long sleeves and long trousers; you can also spray them with insecticide,

  • Apply insect repellents regularly to your skin,

  • Don’t forget that the mosquitoes are there, waiting for you, as soon as you get off the  plane! 

So carry in your hand luggage the proper clothing and sprays, especially if you are scheduled to arrive at the end of the day or in the evening. If you have any problem while travelling, don’t wait until you get home to consult a doctor. The regulating doctor of your assistance company is available to discuss any questions or doubts you may have about your health. He/she can provide useful advice, contact your family doctor and organize a consultation wherever you are. 

The travellers who need protection

Children under 15 years of age and people with a weakened immune system are more likely to contract the serious type of Dengue illness. It is therefore essential to strictly apply the preventive measures mentioned above.