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Auckland health officials warn of dengue risk when traveling to Samoa

Earlier this month, Samoan health officials reported a dengue fever outbreak that was first detected in October with the most affected areas being Apia Urban Area, Vaimauga District and Faleata District.

Aedes aegypti/CDC

Auckland health officials warned last week of an increase of travel-associated dengue fever cases recently due to travel in the region, particularly from Samoa, which accounts for 70 percent of the cases.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather urges anyone travelling to these countries where dengue fever occurs, particularly Samoa, to exercise caution.

“Dengue fever can be a severe illness. Those who travel to Pacific countries frequently are at risk of repeat infections with different strains of the dengue virus. This can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.”

Symptoms of dengue fever include the sudden onset of fever for two to seven days, intense headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting and skin rash.  People who develop dengue haemorrhagic fever may also develop symptoms of bleeding such as bruising and nose bleeds, and internal bleeding can also occur.

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There is no vaccine currently available in the Pacific for dengue fever; nor does vitamin B prevent mosquito bites. The only way to prevent infection, says Dr Barnfather, is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

“Although the commonest time for bites is early morning and late afternoon, dengue-carrying mosquitoes also bite all through the day.”

Avoiding bug bites while travelling

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

New Zealand mosquitoes do not carry dengue virus, and it is not spread person to person. Despite this, says Dr Barnfather, “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.”