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11.12.2018

With a rise in dengue fever in travellers returning from holidays, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is encouraging anyone travelling to the Pacific and South East Asia this summer to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Auckland has seen a rise in total dengue cases in travellers returning from holidays. So far, this year there have been 180 cases, the majority of which were over the summer period, compared with 125 cases in 2017.

Public Health Medical Specialist Dr Subha Rajanaidu urges anyone travelling to holiday destinations where dengue is prevalent, such as Bali and the Pacific Islands, to take precautions.  

“Dengue fever can be a severe illness. Those who travel frequently to these destinations are at risk of repeat infections with different strains of the dengue virus. This can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. People who have moved to New Zealand from these countries need to be aware that their immunity and resistance reduces the longer they are away, and differs to those who live in the countries they are visiting.”

Dengue fever symptoms begin with a high fever and severe headache. Nausea and vomiting are common, as are joint and muscle pain. The illness can last up to ten days, although people can feel tired and depressed for weeks.

All travellers should be aware of any potential disease wherever they travel, and should take the necessary precautions to protect against dengue and other diseases such as zika and Japanese encephalitis.  

The best way to prevent infection, says Dr Rajanaidu, is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

“The most common time for bites is early morning and late afternoon, although dengue-carrying mosquitoes also bite all through the day.”

The best protection from mosquito bites include:

  • Wearing lightly-coloured clothing that covers your arms and legs, along with a hat and shoes,
  • Applying insect repellent, containing 30% diethyl tolumide (DEET), to skin and clothing,
  • Staying in accommodation that is air-conditioned, or has screens on doors and windows and
  • Use mosquito nets and coils.

Dr Rajanaidu says anyone returning from overseas with dengue symptoms, or feeling generally unwell, should contact their GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116 and let them know where they travelled. Paracetamol is recommended rather than aspirin, as aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding.

New Zealand mosquitoes do not carry dengue virus, and it is not spread person to person. Despite this, says Dr Rajanaidu, “dengue is not a disease you want to bring home. By taking precautions, you can reduce the risk of infection and have a more enjoyable trip.”

 

For more information:

ARPHS page on dengue fever, including fact sheet https://www.arphs.health.nz/resources/category/dengue-fever

Map of Dengue risk areas https://www.healthmap.org/dengue/en/

Safe Travel information https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/health-and-travel

Ministry of Health advice on avoiding mosquito bites https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/dengue

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