In 2013, 541 cases of dengue fever were reported in travellers returning from dengue-affected countries, an overall increase of 58 per cent 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 four cases reported in the UK associated with travel to the Caribbean.
Dr Jane Jones, travel and migrant health expert at PHE 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.
Dr Vanessa Field, joint director at National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) said: ‘We strongly recommend travellers should seek pre-travel advice from their GP, a specialist travel clinic or pharmacy at least six to eight weeks before they travel. To minimise the risk of mosquito bites it is advisable to wear appropriate clothing to cover up – such as long sleeve tops and trousers, and to use insect repellents. If a traveller develops symptoms such as fever, rash or joint pain within two weeks of returning from a foreign trip, they should seek medical advice from their GP.”
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.
1. For the latest health protection report please visit: http://www.hpa.org.uk/hpr/
4. Travel health information available for each country from the NaTHNaC website