For most travellers, there is no suitable vaccine to prevent dengue. The best way to avoid infection in areas where there are dengue-carrying mosquito populations is to protect yourself against being bitten and to reduce potential mosquito breeding sites. All people in dengue-affected areas, whether you have been previously infected or not, should take precautions to prevent being bitten.
A new vaccine for dengue has been approved in some countries where dengue fever is common. It is only useful for people who have previously been infected with dengue fever, as it can actually increase the risk of severe dengue for people who have never had the disease before. This vaccine is not routinely (or widely) available in New Zealand. Please see your local travel medicine specialist for further advice.
Protect against mosquito bites indoors
- Use screens on doors and windows.
- Use insect sprays.
- Use mosquito coils.
- Use a mosquito net over your bed at night. New bed nets often have insecticide already on the net but, if not, you can spray the net with insecticide.
- Turn on air conditioning if you have it and close all windows and doors – this is very effective at keeping mosquitoes out of the room.
The dengue-carrying mosquito can be around during the day so keep covered day and night.
Protect against mosquito bites outdoors
- Wear an insect repellent cream or spray containing no more than 50% diethyltoluamide (DEET) or 30% DEET for children. Higher concentrations are no more effective and can be harmful. Products containing 20–25% picaridin (also known as icaridin) or 30% lemon eucalyptus oil (also known as PMD) can also be used. Read more about insect repellents and how to use them safely.
- When using sunscreen, apply repellent over the sunscreen.
- Wear light-coloured protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
- Wear clothing treated with an insecticide such as permethrin. Clothing can be bought pre-treated, or you can buy permethrin and treat your own clothes. Permethrin-treated clothing can be washed several times and still provide protection against insects. Regular insect repellent applied to clothes can also provide temporary protection, but must be reapplied at regular intervals.
- Wear shoes rather than sandals.
- Use zip-up screens on tents.
- Avoid areas where mosquitoes are most active.
The mosquito that transmits dengue is commonly found in urban areas, so avoiding rural travel will not protect you against dengue fever.
Reduce mosquito breeding sites
Dengue-carrying mosquitoes generally breed in stagnant water found in containers (eg, discarded tyres, uncovered barrels, buckets) rather than in rivers, swamps, open drains, creeks or mangroves. The disease is particularly common in urban areas where standing water is near to homes and provides an ideal breeding ground for the carrier mosquitoes.
To eliminate breeding sites:
- empty any containers that hold water in and around the place you are staying
- cover all water tanks, cisterns, barrels and rubbish containers
- remove or empty water in old tyres, tin cans, bottles and trays
- check and clean out clogged gutters and flat roofs where water may have settled
- change water regularly in pet water dishes, birdbaths and plant trays
- trim weeds and tall grasses, as adult mosquitoes seek these for shade.
Video: Fight the bite, day and night
Dr Laupepa Va'a from the Ministry of Health talks about how people travelling overseas can avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that might carry diseases such as dengue fever. and Zika virus. This video may take a few moments to load.
(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018)