People travelling to the Pacific should take extra steps to avoid mosquito bites following an outbreak of dengue fever.
Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses are common in the tropical and sub-tropical climates in most Pacific Islands, in North Queensland (Australia), Asia (including India), Africa and Central/South America. Dengue fever is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and cannot be spread directly from person to person.
Increased numbers of dengue fever cases have been reported recently in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. New Zealand has also recorded an increased number of dengue fever cases in travellers returning from the Pacific. Most of these travellers were returning to New Zealand from Samoa. The dengue situation is constantly changing in the Pacific as the disease evolves by outbreaks. Other areas with reported dengue outbreaks are Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia. For further information about countries affected by dengue, please see the information available on the PPHSN website.
To avoid dengue fever when travelling outside New Zealand in countries where the disease is common, travellers should take precautions to prevent 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 cream or spray, 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.
Dengue fever symptoms
Dengue symptoms usually include a sudden onset of fever for two to seven days, with an 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.
What to do if you are concerned about dengue fever
- If you feel unwell during your trip or in the first three weeks after your return, you are advised to seek immediate medical advice and tell the doctor about your travel.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Use paracetamol against fever and pain. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen as they can increase the risk of bleeding from dengue infection.
Click here for more Ministry of Health advice on avoiding mosquito bites while travelling.
- See the Fiji travel advisory
- See the French Polynesia travel advisory
- See the Samoa travel advisory
- See the Tonga travel advisory
- See the Wallis and Futuna travel advisory
Reviewed:1 Feb 2018, 11:40
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