DH urges travellers to take precautions against dengue fever (with photo)

     As the recent dengue fever activity in Asia has been more severe than that of last year, a spokesman for the Department of Health (DH) today (June 28) urged members of the public who are planning to travel within Asia during the summer vacation to take precautions against the disease.

     The spokesman said that various popular tourist attractions among Hong Kong people including Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia observed recent persistent increases in the number of dengue fever cases. Other neighbouring Asian countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan and India, also recorded rising dengue fever activity.

     As of June 27, 11,343 cases of dengue fever were recorded by the Singaporean authority in 2013, including three deaths, a six-times increase when compared with the same period in 2012.

     In Thailand, 3,544 cases were recorded in the northeast region in the first five months this year, which is about four times more than the number in the same period last year. The number of cases in Bangkok is 4,374.

     Figures of the Taiwan health authority, as of June 24, revealed that there have been 56 local cases of dengue fever and 81 imported cases this year.

     According to the World Health Organization, Laos had a total of 10,159 dengue fever cases in 2013 as of June 26, which was eight times higher than the same period in 2012. In Cambodia, the number of cases was 4,464. In addition, there were 13,903 cases in Vietnam, 11,485 cases in Malaysia and 37,895 cases in the Philippines.

     In Pakistan, 303 cases were recorded in Sindh this year. In India, most of the dengue fever cases were detected in Mysore (224 cases) and Bangalore (163 cases) this year.

     In addition, as of late May, the cumulative number of dengue fever cases in the Americas was 868,653, of which 8,406 were serious cases and 346 were fatal cases. Outbreaks of dengue fever were observed in Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic in the first quarter this year. Peru detected its first local dengue fever case. It is expected that dengue fever activity will continue to rise in coming months in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

     "Dengue fever is an endemic disease in most Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Members of the public travelling to these places are advised to protect themselves against mosquitoes all year round. In addition, the Port Health Office of the DH has informed the travel industry of the latest situation of dengue fever in these countries," the spokesman remarked.

     Dengue fever is an acute infectious disease caused by dengue viruses and is commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions (see map in Attachment for details), urban areas in particular. Neighbouring Asian areas usually observe increase in dengue fever cases during rainy seasons or approaching the end of rainy seasons.

     Locally, as of today, 39 confirmed cases of dengue fever had been notified to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP). These cases were all imported from various countries including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Vietnam, Brazil, India and Laos. In 2012, 53 imported cases of dengue fever were reported to the CHP, with no local cases.

     Dengue viruses are mosquito-borne. Dengue fever is clinically characterised by sudden onset of high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and rash. In severe cases, it may progress to death.

     The spokesman urged travellers to stay vigilant and take heed of the following preventive measures against mosquitoes:

* Always wear long-sleeved clothing and trousers;
* Stay in air-conditioned residences or places with mosquito screens;
* If mosquito screens or air-conditioning are absent, aerosol insecticide and bed nets are advised;
* Use insect repellents containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing;
* Use insect repellents containing DEET apart from applying sunscreen while staying in beaches;
* Carry a portable bed net and apply permethrin on it as well as to clothes if travelling to rural areas where dengue fever is prevalent.

     Travellers returning from areas where dengue fever is prevalent who feel unwell should seek medical advice as soon as possible and provide travel details to their doctors.

     The latest information on dengue fever in other areas can be found under "Travel Health News" on the website of the DH's Travel Health Service (www.travelhealth.gov.hk).

     Travel agents, tour guides and travellers may visit the website for the latest news and advice on preventive measures.

Ends/Friday, June 28, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:22