Dengue Fever in travelers returning from southeast Asia

Valerie Sung, Daniel P O'Brien, Elizabeth Matchett, Graham V Brown, Joseph Torresi
Journal of Travel Medicine 2003, 10 (4): 208-13

BACKGROUND: Dengue fever is an important illness facing travelers from nonendemic to endemic countries.

METHODS: We reviewed 696 consecutive returned travelers managed at an Australian tertiary-care hospital for an illness acquired overseas. Patients with dengue fever were compared to those with a dengue-like illness, malaria, typhoid fever and rickettsial infections.

RESULTS: In total, 19 cases of dengue fever and 20 cases of dengue-like illness were diagnosed, with 85% of cases acquired in Asia. The most common presenting features of dengue were fever (100%), myalgia (79%), rash (74%), headache (68%), nausea (37%), and diarrhea (37%). Compared to those with malaria, typhoid fever and rickettsial infections, patients with dengue were significantly more likely to have myalgia and a temperature <39 degrees C. Compared to all other illnesses in our returned travelers, dengue fever was 18 times more likely if fever and leukopenia were present, 71 times if fever and rash were present, and 230 times if fever, rash and leukopenia were present. All patients with dengue recovered completely.

CONCLUSIONS: Dengue fever is an important health problem for travelers not only to Southeast Asia but to all endemic countries. The prevalence appears to be increasing in travelers, and health care professionals need to be familiar with its presentation in travelers. The clinical presenting features provide important guides to establishing the diagnosis.

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