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Dengue Risk: South Pacific and Northern Australia


Media Release

24 June 2003

Travellers to South Pacific and northern Australia reminded of dengue risk

Travellers to the Pacific and northern parts of Australia should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos after a significant increase in the number of reported cases of dengue fever, the Ministry of Health said today.

"We're reminding people to take common-sense precautions following recent reports of outbreaks in Tonga and in northern Queensland, " said Dr Alison Roberts, Senior Advisor Public Health Medicine.

In previous years there have been outbreaks of the virus in New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu. Dengue fever also occurs throughout South-east Asia.

"Local authorities in the affected countries undertake control programmes to limit the spread of disease. However there are also steps that visitors and tourists can take."

"The Ministry says travellers can decrease their risk by staying in accommodation with screens on windows and doors and using insect repellant spray indoors. When outside, wear insect repellent and protective clothing, for example long sleeves," said Dr Roberts.

Dengue fever is a serious viral disease spread by the bite of infected mosquitos. It is found in tropical regions worldwide, including the Pacific Islands.

Mosquitoes in New Zealand do not carry the dengue virus and as the disease is not transmitted from person to person, New Zealanders are only at risk when they travel to countries where dengue is a problem.

Dr Roberts said New Zealanders returning from overseas should seek medical advice if they have symptoms of dengue fever or if unwell.

After being bitten by an infected mosquito, dengue fever appears three to 14 days later usually from four to six days. It's characterised by the sudden onset of a high fever, and an intense headache.

Symptoms may also include a skin rash, muscle and join pain. The illness is usually of short duration but recovery may be prolonged. A repeated infection with a dengue virus may cause a severe illness with bleeding.

Anyone who is concerned or wants more information should contact their general practitioner or the local Medical Officer of Health through their local hospital.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Joanne Perry Media Advisor Ministry of Health Phone: 04 496 2069 Mobile: 025 277 5411 Email: joanne_perry@moh.govt.nz

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