Dengue fever is a viral disease spread only by certain mosquitoes – mostly Aedes aegypti or “dengue mosquitoes”, which are common in tropical areas around the world. Towns in the north and central Queensland that have Aedes aegypti are prone to outbreaks of dengue when the virus is brought in by travellers. While some towns in south Queensland also have dengue mosquitoes, they have had no dengue outbreaks in recent years.
There are four types of dengue virus, dengue type 1, 2, 3 and 4. After infection, a person is immune only to that particular type. Further infections with a different type have a higher chance of severe or complicated dengue.
Signs and Symptoms:
Typical symptoms may include:
- sudden onset of fever, extreme tiredness
- intense headache (especially behind the eyes)
- muscle and joint pain (ankles, knees and elbows)
- loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, a metallic taste
- flushed skin on face and neck, fine skin rash as fever subsides
- red rash on arms and legs, itching, peeling of skin and hair loss
- minor bleeding (nose or gums) and heavy menstrual periods.
The illness lasts up to a week. In some cases, fever and possibly worse symptoms may return for another two to three days. Dengue ranges from mild or unnoticed (more often in children), to severe or even fatal cases. Complications include shock (collapse from internal fluid loss) and haemorrhage (heavy bleeding).
- See a doctor immediately if you or anyone in your family have symptoms of dengue.
- Rest at home. Make sure you get enough to drink, even if you cannot eat.
- Avoid mosquito bites so you don’t spread the disease – use insect repellent or plug-in mosquito repellent devices inside. Stay in a screened or air-conditioned room where possible.
- Have someone stay home to look after you.
- Use paracetamol (alone or with codeine) for pain. Don’t exceed the recommended dose.
- Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs – they increase the chance of bleeding.
Ring or visit your doctor if you get worse and experience any of the following:
- unable to drink
- unexpected bleeding or bruising
- severe abdominal pain or vomiting
- confusion, with restlessness or drowsiness
- collapse or signs of shock; pale, cold, clammy or blotchy skin; weak pulse.
Some people with dengue need urgent hospital treatment for complications such as shock or haemorrhage. Deaths are rare in Australia.
Prevention and Control
Get rid of breeding sites:
- Dengue mosquitoes are different to bush or swamp mosquitoes – they breed in containers and junk. Remove all breeding sites around your home and workplace.
- Dengue mosquitoes develop in anything that holds water at home: pot plant bases, buckets, tarpaulins, tyres, vases, coconut shells, blocked gutters, and even palm fronds. Neglected rainwater tanks, boats, tubs or pools can breed thousands of dengue mosquitoes.
- Check-in and around your home every week. Clean out roof gutters, empty and scrub out containers, store them in a dry place or throw them away.
Travelling to, or living in, a place with dengue – avoid mosquito bites:
Dengue mosquitoes bite quietly, during the day. Use plug-in mosquito repellent devices inside and coils outside. Screen living and sleeping
Wear long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing, and cover your feet.
Use insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) or picaridin and reapply according to the label.
Help and assistance:
For enquiries or if you may have dengue fever, contact a public health unit
(07) 4226 5555 (Cairns) or (07) 4433 6900 (Townsville)
For queries or complaints about local mosquito control contact your local council.
See the Queensland Health website: Mosquito-borne diseases and dengue