Dengue fever can be a very painful and debilitating for the patient. It is estimated that nearly 100 million cases of dengue fever occur worldwide each year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 40% of the world’s population lives in areas when the dengue virus can be transmitted.
The disease is most prevalent in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands, The Caribbean, Mexico, Africa and Central and South America. People traveling to any of these regions are at risk of being infected by the dengue fever virus. The disease is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito and cannot be spread from one person to another.
In severe cases, this disease can develop into dengue haemorrhagic fever or into dengue shock syndrome. Individuals that already have weakened immune systems and those with a second or subsequent dengue infection are deemed to be at greater risk of developing dengue haemorrhagic fever.
Dengue haemorrhagic fever is a more severe form of viral illness. In patients who develop this, there can be evidence of haemorrhage in the body. Possible signs of this include petachiae, bleeding in the nose or gums, black stools or easy bruising. This form of dengue fever can be life-threatening and can progress to dengue fever syndrome.
To date, there is no commercially available vaccine for dengue fever but it can be prevented by reducing the number of mosquitoes and by avoiding and/or limiting exposure to mosquito bites. Most patients are treated with acetaminophen and it is generally advised to avoid aspirin. Patients are also advised to rest and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms get worse within the first 24 hours, it is best to get to a hospital immediately and be examined for any possible complications.
It is important for travelers to understand that they are at risk in areas where dengue occurs. The most risk exists during daytime, especially at the time of sunrise and sunset. One thing to remember is that the dengue mosquitoes bite even in shady areas and indoor locations. When traveling to dengue-infected areas, travelers are advised to stay in air-conditioned hotels and participate in outdoor activities during non-peaking biting hours.
Humanitarian and aid workers are at high risk of being infected. Thus, when traveling to dengue areas, it is best to take preventive measures to avoid infection.