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New mosquito threat to travellers

Thursday May 12th, 2011

UK travellers to Thailand and India are returning with diseases caused by mosquito bites, health officials warned yesterday.

As well as malaria, mosquitoes transmit dengue fever and another illness chikungunya.

Cases of dengue fever among British travellers have more than doubled in the last year, according to the Health Protection Agency.

Some 406 were identified last year - compared with 166 in 2009. About a fifth were in travellers from India and one sixth involved Thailand.

The number of people infected with chikungunya increased from 59 to 79.

Dengue fever is found in many of the world's tropical and equatorial regions, including the Caribbean and the western Pacific.

Victims of both disease suffer fever, muscle pain, headache and rash - although the experts say most patients will not suffer serious complications. However there are no treatments or vaccines for the infections, which are caused by viruses.

Dr Jane Jones, of the HPA, said: "These figures demonstrate that the importance of taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites extends to protecting against other infections, not just malaria.

"Unlike for malaria where drugs can be taken to prevent infection, there is no such option available to prevent either dengue or chikungunya."

She added: "The mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya bite in the day, compared with those that spread malaria which are mainly active from dusk to dawn.

"To minimise the risk of being bitten it is advisable to wear appropriate clothing to cover up - such as long sleeve tops and trousers - and use insect repellents. In areas where both malaria and these other mosquito borne illnesses co-exist, protection against mosquito bites should be used around the clock, including the use of mosquito nets at night."

The HPA says travellers can get advice on avoiding bites at the National Travel Health Network.

Tags: Asia | Flu & Viruses | Traveller Health | UK News | World Health

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