Auckland dengue fever outbreak sparks health alert

There's been a spike in cases from Samoa - and it can be fatal.
There's been a spike in cases from Samoa - and it can be fatal. Photo credit: Reuters

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has issued a warning to the public after a spike in dengue fever cases.

The tropical disease has broken out across the Pacific and victims are now arriving in New Zealand, with Auckland seeing a rise in dengue fever cases in the past two months.

There is no vaccine available for the tropical disease - which can be fatal. Samoa is a particular risk, with 70 percent of cases coming from there.

Medical officer of health Dr Denise Barnfather urges anyone travelling to countries where dengue fever can be caught to be careful.

"Dengue fever can be a severe illness," she says.

"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 include a sudden 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. Internal bleeding can also occur.

"Dengue is not a disease you want to bring home," Dr Barnfather warns.

"By taking precautions, you can reduce the risk of infection and have a more enjoyable trip."

The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, she says.

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

Take precautions to ensure you avoid being bitten:

Indoors

  • Use screens on doors and windows.
  • Use insect sprays.
  • Use mosquito coils.
  • Use a mosquito net over your bed at night.
  • You can spray this with insecticide if you wish.
  • Turn on air conditioning if you have it - this is very effective at keeping mosquitoes out of a room.

Outdoors

  • Wear a repellent cream or spray containing less than 35 percent diethyltoluamide (DEET). High concentrations are no more effective and can be harmful.
  • Products containing 20-25 percent picaridin or 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil can also be used.
  • When using sunscreen, apply repellent over the top of sunscreen.
  • Wear light coloured protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
  • Clothing can be treated with repellent.
  • 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.

Newshub.