Dengue fever outbreak update
An outbreak of dengue fever in the Pacific has prompted the Ministry of Health to urge travellers – particularly to Samoa and Fiji – to be extra vigilant to avoid mosquito bites.
Dengue fever is circulating in the Pacific Islands and an increased number of dengue cases have been recorded mainly in the Auckland region among travellers returning from the Pacific.
Most of the cases reported from November 1 last year were from people returning from Samoa, although some cases have also been recorded in travellers returning from Fiji and Tonga.
Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito – it cannot be spread from person-to-person.
Symptoms usually include a sudden onset of fever for two to seven days, with intense headache (especially behind the eyes), muscle and joint pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and often a skin rash.
In a small proportion of cases (less than five percent), severe dengue may occur, with rapid deterioration two to five days after fever has begun.
People with severe dengue require hospitalisation as the disease may be life-threatening.
People with dengue fever symptoms, particularly those who have travelled recently, should see their family doctor.
Drink plenty of fluids and use paracetamol against fever and pain.
Aspirin and ibuprofen must be avoided as they can increase the risk of bleeding from dengue infection.
For those travelling to the Pacific, the best protection against dengue fever is to avoid mosquito bites.
– stay in places with screens on windows and doors;
- turn on the air conditioning if you have it as cool air keeps mosquitoes away;
- use insect sprays indoors when mosquitoes are around;
- use mosquito coils.
- wear a repellent, preferably containing diethyltoluamide (DEET). Repellents containing less than 35 percent DEET are recommended because higher concentrations are no more effective – they just work for longer – and in rare cases they can cause poisoning. Other products containing 20-25 percent picaridin and those containing about 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil (equating to about 20 percent para-methane-diol (PMD)) are also appropriate to use. Repellents should not be applied to wounds, irritated skin, eyes or mouth;
- if you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent;
- wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats. Clothing can be treated with repellent;
- use screens on tents.