London Travel Clinic


Disease Fact File

What is it?

Dengue fever is caused by a virus that is spread from person to person by mosquitoes. The type of mosquito that cause Dengue predominantly bite during the day.

Distribution and Transmission

Dengue is endemic in South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent, the Pacific region as far south as Queensland in Australia, the Caribbean Islands, northern and eastern parts of Central and South America, to a lesser extent the Middle East and sporadically in Africa. Outbreaks are common and often occur after the rainy seasons when mosquitoes breed more actively.


There is no vaccine available. Prevention of mosquito bites is the single most important precaution. Mosquitoes do not like draughts, breezes or air-conditioning, therefore staying in hotels, on coastlines or on boats reduces the risk. It is also recommended that you wear long sleeves and trousers.

1) Repellents

A chemical repellent is most effective, the most widely used in this country being DEET (Diethyl toluamide). It is believed that DEET interferes with the mosquitos’ sense organs making it difficult for them to locate their victims. DEET comes in lotions, sticks, creams, gels or aerosols sprays and should be applied regularly to the skin. Clothes can be impregnated with an aerosol or a suspension of concentrated DEET.

2) In bedrooms

Well-fitting, screened windows are important. Spray aerosols in the room before going to bed. A good quality mosquito net is strongly advised wherever there is a risk – check for tears and holes. Mains operated mosquito repellents i.e. ‘no bite’ mosquito killers are also very effective.

Finally - guide books may state that there have been very few cases of Dengue Fever in recent years, this does not mean the disease has been eliminated, but that the locals may have survived an epidemic.

Signs and Symptoms

The illness has as incubation period of 3-8 days. A headache and severe joint and muscle pain (from where it gets the name breakbone fever) mark the onset of the illness. The initial bout of fever resolves but then reoccurs and a rash usually appears between the 3rd and 5th day of the infection. Although dengue fever is undoubtedly an unpleasant illness, serious complications are uncommon.

Immunity to infection does not last long so second attacks are possible.

Occasionally a Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, a severe and life-threatening form can occur. This is thought to be the result of a second infection in patients with some remaining immunity following a first attack.

Categories: All Diseases


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