Dengue Fever: Not Just a Tropical Disease

Key Takeaways:
  • Dengue is a serious mosquito-borne disease.
  • Dengue outbreaks do not only occur in the tropics, as the current outbreak in Madeira demonstrates.
  • The best means to prevent dengue is to pack (and use) plenty of these travel supplies: mosquito repellent, bed nets, and protective clothing.

Dengue Fever is typically thought of as a disease that is only present in the tropics and sub-tropics.  However, recent outbreaks demonstrate this is not always the case.  Indeed, a recent outbreak of Dengue in Madeira, an island off the southeastern coast of Portugal, is causing concern for anyone traveling to this part of the world.  A number of tourists to Madeira have contracted the disease, giving it the potential to spread into other countries as the infected tourists return home.  As a result, anyone traveling to Europe should take extra precautions against mosquito bites since this prudent preparation is currently the only line of defense against Dengue Fever.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue is a geographically widespread disease.  In fact, it is so widespread that more than one-third of the world’s population lives within areas where transmission is possible.  Currently, Dengue is rarely seen in the continental United States, and an outbreak in Europe had previously not happened since the 1920s.  However, Dengue is endemic in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and anyone traveling to these areas should take plenty of precautions against mosquito bites as a result.

Dengue is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito, and there is no vaccine against the disease.  Typically, Dengue Fever is not life threatening, but unpleasant symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle and bone pain.   Dengue hemorrhagic fever, however, is a more severe form of dengue infection that results in high fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bleeding.  If not recognized early or treated properly, this form of the disease can be fatal.

How to Prevent Dengue Fever

Unfortunately, no vaccines or medicines yet exist for Dengue Fever. Research is ongoing to develop a vaccine, but, currently, the best way to prevent dengue fever is to protect oneself from mosquito bites. Mosquito repellent, bed nets, and protective clothing are all crucial preventative measures for travelers to the tropics, and it’s best to take multiple forms of protection.

Mosquito repellents that contain DEET are highly recommended.  Be sure to apply the repellent generously, especially to any exposed areas of skin.  Remember, mosquitoes can bite through clothing, so a general repellent may not be sufficient. Apply Permethrin to clothing as well for optimal protection.  Finally, at night, as an extra line of defense, be sure to sleep under a mosquito net.

The recent and unexpected outbreak in Madeira shows there is no such thing as too much prevention – follow these mosquito-borne illness best practices to stay protected against Dengue Fever while traveling!



  1. Lorraine says

    “Dengue Fever | Passport Health” was indeed a great blog, can not help but wait to look over a
    lot more of your blogs. Time to spend a little time on the
    internet hehe. Regards ,Arlie

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