Dengue (which used to be called dengue fever) is a viral illness which is very common in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. It is usually a flu-like illness lasting under a week, but it can sometimes be very serious, even fatal.
What is dengue?
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral illness carried by the Aedes mosquito. Although it would be very unusual to catch dengue in the UK, it is common in returning travellers who have visited areas where dengue is present.
Where is dengue found?
Dengue is carried by mosquitoes in warmer parts of the world, including Africa, South America, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. There have been outbreaks in the southern states of the USA.
How common is it in the UK?
300-400 cases of dengue occur each year in the UK, in travellers returning from countries where dengue is common. It is likely that many other mild cases go undetected.
What is the dengue mosquito like?
The Aedes mosquito has stripy legs and tends to bite in the early morning and late afternoon.
Can I catch it more than once?
You can have dengue more than once. A second infection is more likely to be serious.
There are four types of dengue virus - and once you have had one dengue virus you remain immune to the particular strain - but you are not immune to the other types.
Where is the greatest risk of catching it?
The greatest risk is if you visit an area where dengue mosquitoes are present, whilst there is a current outbreak, as this means that there are large numbers of infected people and, therefore, many infected mosquitoes. This is most likely in cities, where people are more crowded. It's also more likely if public hygiene and sanitation are poor so that there are many mosquitoes.
Who is most at risk of severe dengue?
19 out of every 20 severe cases occur in children aged less than 15 years.
Further reading and references
Dengue and severe dengue; World Health Organization, July 2016
Dengue Clinical Guide - Treatment Algorithm; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Vasilakis N, Weaver SC; The history and evolution of human dengue emergence. Adv Virus Res. 200872:1-76. doi: 10.1016/S0065-3527(08)00401-6.
Dengue fever; National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)
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