Dengue fever: How to protect yourself

Dengue fever is spreading in Europe, and sporadic local cases have been reported in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal (Madeira) and Croatia. SOS International therefore encourages summer tourists to remember mosquito repellent.

Dengue fever is a viral infection that is transmitted to humans via mosquito bites, and it has so far been a risk in tropical and subtropical climates such as Asia, Africa and South America.

In recent years, however, several local cases have been recorded in Europe, where the Asian tiger mosquito, which can carry the virus, has managed to survive. In 2023, a total of 105 local cases were registered in Italy, France and Spain.

In early 2024, several European countries have reported large increases in imported cases, suggesting an even higher number of local cases in Europe in 2024.

Doctor’s advice: No need to panic
Even if you're planning a trip to Southern Europe, there's no need to panic. The risk of being infected in Europe is assessed as small, and dengue fever rarely develops into a serious condition in people who are already healthy and healthy, explains consultant Raquel Martín-Iguacel, who is an infectious disease specialist at Odense University Hospital and is affiliated with SOS International:

- The risk of being infected as a tourist in Europe is low. There are relatively few local cases that have been registered, and in case of infection, it is rare for healthy people to become seriously ill from the virus, says Raquel Martín-Iguacel.

If you are stung by a mosquito in an area where there is an outbreak of dengue fever, you can safely wait and see:

- It is far from all mosquitoes that carry the virus, so you should only contact a doctor if you develop symptoms. If you are infected, the symptoms typically appear 3-5 days later in the form of high fever, rash, headache, and joint and muscle pain as with a bad flu, says Raquel Martín-Iguacel.

It is not possible to test for the virus before the disease breaks out. Raquel Martín-Iguacel explains that many cases of dengue fever are asymptomatic or mild, but the virus can rarely lead to severe platelet deficiency and in these cases treatment in the hospital is necessary. Most will recover within 1-2 weeks.

Vaccination against dengue fever
There is a vaccine against dengue fever, but it is not recommended for travel in Europe where the risk of infection is not considered high.

The health authorities recommend that you prevent infection by using mosquito repellents such as sprays and insect nets.

How to avoid being stung by mosquitoes:

  • Apply mosquito repellent or balm to uncovered skin
  • Wear clothes that cover as much of the body as possible
  • Sleep under mosquito nets and with closed windows and doors
  • Be aware of stagnant water

Read more about dengue fever at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

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