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Dengue

What is dengue?

Dengue is a viral disease spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, pain in the eyes, joints, and muscles, and minor bleeding. If you are bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms can take up to 2 weeks to develop but usually last less than a week. In severe cases, symptoms may include hemorrhage, shock, organ failure, and death.

Who is at risk?

Travelers who go to tropical and subtropical regions are at risk of getting dengue. These areas include parts of the Caribbean, Central and South America, Western Pacific Islands, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The mosquito that carries the dengue virus can bite during the day and night, both indoors and outdoors and often lives around buildings in urban areas. Dengue is not usually seen at altitudes above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).

What can travelers do to prevent dengue?

Aedes aegypti mosquito

Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.  

Prevent mosquito bites:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
  • Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
    • DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
    • IR3535  (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
    man spraying insect repellent on his arm
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
    • Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

If you are bitten by mosquitoes:

  • Avoid scratching mosquito bites.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.

If you feel sick and think you may have dengue:

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
  • Use acetaminophen. Do not take pain relievers that contain aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), it may lead to a greater tendency to bleed.
  • Get lots of rest, and drink plenty of liquids.
  • Avoid spreading the disease by preventing more mosquito bites.

Dengue Vaccine

  • In May 2019, Dengvaxia was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States for use in children 9-16 years old living in an area where dengue is common (the US territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), with laboratory confirmed prior dengue virus infection.
  • The vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, announced in 2017 that people who receive the vaccine and have not been previously infected with a dengue virus may be at risk of developing severe dengue if they get dengue after being vaccinated.

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