Health Department Advises New Yorkers to Take Precautions against Dengue when Traveling to the Caribbean, South and Central America, and other Tropical Regions
The Health Department is urging New Yorkers traveling to tropical settings to take special precautions to avoid dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness that is occurring at high levels in many parts of the world, including the Caribbean and South and Central America. These regions - all common destinations for New York City travelers - have reported more than 1 million clinical cases of dengue fever this year.
"There is no vaccine or cure for dengue, so the best way to protect yourself is to avoid mosquitoes while traveling," said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. "If you're traveling in an affected area, apply mosquito repellent to your skin and clothes whenever you're outdoors. And if you develop a fever and other symptoms within two weeks of returning home, be sure to tell your doctor of your recent travel."
The dengue virus can cause fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, and joint and muscle pain, as well as a rash and light bleeding from the nose or gums. Symptoms of infection may appear 3 to 14 days after the mosquito bite and typically last 7 to 10 days, so some people become ill after returning from a dengue-affected area. Most people recover fully on their own, but some develop a more severe illness called dengue hemorrhagic fever, which often requires hospitalization. People who have had dengue fever in the past are more likely to develop severe illness. The Health Department has reminded doctors to watch for the disease and to promptly report suspected cases.
New York City has not experienced local transmission of dengue fever; the city's known cases have all occurred in travelers, with the most common travel destinations being Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are rare in the northeastern United States, but dengue transmission is increasing in many countries. This year, dengue fever has been reported in 50 countries worldwide, mostly in Asia, Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Transmission has also been occurring in Key West, Florida, since 2009.
Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites while Traveling
Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, the mosquitoes that transmit dengue bite mainly during daylight hours. If you are going to an area with mosquitoes you should:
- Use insect repellent (containing the active ingredients DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) on your skin and clothing.
- Travelers can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and closed shoes.
- Sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net if your lodging lacks screens.
- Get rid of standing water, which helps mosquitoes breed. Empty out buckets, old tires or anything else that holds water.
About Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes found in tropical and subtropical areas. It affects 50 million to 100 million people each year. Symptoms are flu-like and generally occur 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include fever, headache, eye pain and body aches. A rash may also appear. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is the most severe form of the disease and it can be fatal. There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever so it is important to take precautionary steps to prevent mosquito bites.
For more information on dengue fever, including a map of areas currently affected by dengue, visit www.cdc.gov/dengue .