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Expat Exchange - Dengue Virus in Australia
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Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia


Dengue Virus in Australia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: The Aedes mosquito, known for spreading the dengue virus, is found in Australia. Being aware of dengue symptoms and taking steps to minimize mosquito bites are crucial for your health and safety in this area.

Dengue virus, a mosquito-borne disease, poses a significant public health challenge in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, including parts of Australia. Characterized by high fever, severe headache, and joint pain, dengue can range from a mild illness to a potentially life-threatening condition known as severe dengue. In Australia, the risk of dengue is primarily concentrated in the northern regions, where the climate is conducive to the breeding of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the primary vector for the virus. This article delves into the various aspects of dengue virus in Australia, from its symptoms and prevalence to prevention strategies and the risks it poses to certain demographics.

What is Dengue Disease?

Dengue disease, caused by the dengue virus, is a flu-like illness that can affect individuals of all ages. Symptoms typically begin 4-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and may include a sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and mild bleeding (such as nose or gum bleed). The illness usually lasts about a week, and most people recover with rest and hydration. However, in some cases, the disease can develop into severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can cause severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, and blood in vomit. This form of dengue can be life-threatening due to plasma leaking, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment. Long-lasting effects are rare but can include fatigue and depression for weeks or months following recovery from the acute illness.

Where is Dengue Most Prevalent in Australia?

In Australia, dengue is most prevalent in the northeastern state of Queensland, particularly in the tropical regions such as Cairns, Townsville, and the Torres Strait Islands. These areas provide the warm, humid climate that is ideal for the Aedes aegypti mosquito to thrive. Local transmission of the virus in these regions is typically associated with the arrival of infected international travelers or the importation of goods that inadvertently carry the mosquitoes. While Australia has been successful in preventing widespread transmission of dengue, occasional outbreaks do occur, and authorities remain vigilant in mosquito control and public health education efforts.

How do Expats in Australia Prevent Mosquito Bites?

Expatriates living in or traveling to dengue-prone areas of Australia can take several precautions to prevent mosquito bites. These include using insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover the limbs; using mosquito nets while sleeping, especially during the day when Aedes mosquitoes are most active; and ensuring that living accommodations are fitted with screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Additionally, expats can help reduce mosquito breeding sites by eliminating standing water in containers such as flower pots, buckets, and tires, as these are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

What if I Get Dengue Virus in Australia?

If you suspect you have contracted dengue virus in Australia, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. There is no specific treatment for dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care can significantly lower the risks of complications. Treatment is primarily supportive and includes staying hydrated, resting, and taking pain relievers like acetaminophen or paracetamol to alleviate symptoms. Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided as they can increase the risk of bleeding. If you are diagnosed with dengue, follow your healthcare provider's instructions and take measures to protect yourself from further mosquito bites during the first week of illness to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Is Dengue Virus Contagious?

Dengue virus is not contagious and cannot spread directly from person to person. The only way the virus can be transmitted is through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. When a mosquito bites a person infected with dengue virus, the mosquito can become a carrier of the virus after the virus incubates for 8-10 days. The infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people through bites. This is why it is essential for individuals with dengue to avoid mosquito bites to help prevent further spread of the disease.

Is Dengue Virus More Dangerous for Children, Elderly, or Immune-Compromised?

Dengue virus can be more dangerous for certain groups of people, including children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. These individuals may be at a higher risk of developing severe dengue, which can lead to serious health complications or even death. Children, in particular, may not have fully developed immune systems and are less able to cope with the severe symptoms. The elderly may have underlying health conditions that can be exacerbated by dengue infection. Similarly, individuals with weakened immune systems may have a reduced ability to fight off infections, making them more susceptible to severe illness. It is crucial for these high-risk groups to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to seek medical care immediately if they exhibit symptoms of dengue.

In conclusion, while dengue virus is not endemic to most of Australia, certain regions, particularly in the north, are susceptible to outbreaks. Understanding the symptoms, knowing where the disease is most prevalent, and taking proactive measures to prevent mosquito bites are essential steps in protecting oneself from dengue. Expatriates and travelers should be particularly vigilant. Although dengue is not contagious from person to person, it can be more dangerous for children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. With no specific treatment available, prevention remains the most effective strategy against dengue virus in Australia.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia

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