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Dengue fever cases in returning travellers increase by 60% in one year

In 2013, 541 cases of dengue fever were reported in travellers returning from dengue-affected countries

Ingrdi Torjesen

Wednesday, 09 July 2014

The number of cases of dengue fever and chikungunya in returning travellers increased dramatically in 2013, data from Public Health England shows.

In 2013, 541 cases of dengue fever were reported in travellers returning from dengue-affected countries - an increase of 58% compared to 2012. India and Thailand continue to be the most frequent countries of travel reported for dengue cases, although in 2013, there was also an increase in cases associated with travel to Barbados.

There was also an increase in chikungunya with 24 cases reported in 2013 compared to 15 cases in 2012, mostly acquired in India and South East Asia. In December 2013, indigenously acquired chikungunya was first reported in St Martin, a French overseas territory in the Caribbean. By July 2014, at least 22 other islands and territories in the region had also reported indigenous chikungunya, this includes 4 cases reported in the UK associated with travel to the Caribbean.

Dr Jane Jones, travel and migrant health expert at Public Health England said: “Dengue fever and chikungunya are unpleasant viral illnesses that are transmitted by day-biting mosquitoes. As there is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against dengue fever or chikungunya, prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites, particularly around dusk and dawn when the day biting mosquitoes are most active.”

Dengue fever is a viral illness spread by day-biting Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms include a severe flu-like illness, fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, nausea and vomiting. Dengue is common in parts of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Western Pacific.

Chikungunya fever is a viral illness with similar symptoms to dengue fever, although joint pains may be a more prominent feature. Most patients make a full recovery, but in some cases joint pain and arthritis may persist for several months, or even years. It occurs in parts of Asia and Africa but has more recently spread to the Caribbean region and to parts of South and Central America. It is not spread directly from person to person but is transmitted by the same mosquito species that also transmits dengue fever.

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