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Tourists' dengue fever cases triple


By Mark Stillman

The number of tourists from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have been struck down with a fever spread by mosquito bites has nearly tripled, according to the latest statistics from health officials.

Dengue fever inflicts sufferers with serious flu-like symptoms including fever, headache and bone, muscle and joint pain.

There have been 141 "confirmed and probable cases" of the viral infection between January and April, said Public Health England  (PHE).
This compares to just 51 during the same period last year.

Officials said the number of cases of the infection recorded annually has also risen, with 223 cases reported in 2011 and 343 reported last year.

Thailand, Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados Asia (particularly Sri Lanka), Africa and the Americas are among the destinations where stricken tourists have felt relieved that they took out appropriate travel insurance.

Sufferers can develop more serious complications and need hospital care. Many sufferers can manage their symptoms by taking paracetamol, drinking fluids, and resting, although there is no specific preventative medicine or vaccination.

Experts warned tourists to be extra vigilant around mosquitoes by applying insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved clothing, particularly at dusk and dawn when the insects are most active.

Dr Jane Jones, a travel-associated infection expert at PHE, called the rise in the numbers of people returning with dengue fever "concerning".

She urged travellers to practice rigid strict mosquito bite avoidance at all times to reduce their risk of becoming ill.

Dr Jones added: "Of those who became unwell the majority had been to south east Asia and the Far East with the next highest proportions visiting the Indian subcontinent followed by the Caribbean."

She advised anyone who develops a fever or flu-like symptoms within a fortnight of returning from these areas to seek medical advice from NHS 111 or their GP.

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of the PHE's National Travel Health Network and Centre, said prevention centres on avoiding mosquito bites.

Dr Patel said: "To minimise the risk of being bitten use appropriate insect repellents and wear appropriate clothing - such as long sleeve tops and trousers to reduce the amount of skin being exposed."

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