Climate change implicated in dengue fever outbreaks in Pacific islands

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1 NEWS

Outbreaks of deadly dengue fever in Pacific island nations almost every year are probably partly down to climate change, according to a travel doctor.

The strain hasn't been seen in 20 years and eleven people have died in New Caledonia.
Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand travellers are being warned to take precautions when going to affected areas amid a surge of dengue fever in the Pacific this year, and a "type 2" strain that hasn't been seen in 20 years.

Eleven people have died in New Caledonia this year from the mosquito-borne disease and more than 4000 others have been affected.

As well as New Caledonia, which more than 9000 Kiwis visit each year, the dengue strain is also in Vanuatu, Fiji, American Samoa and Palau.

"It is almost every year now. And I think that's probably because of this so-called climate change, and when we see the fact that coupled with that there's a great traveller population," said Dr Marc Shaw of Worldwise Travellers Health.

While dengue isn't spread in New Zealand, over the first six months of this year 71 New Zealanders were reported as contracting dengue overseas, mostly after travelling to the Pacific.

And since April seven zika cases have been reported here, all originating from Fiji. 

Zika, also caught from mosquitos, has been linked to microcephaly where a baby is born with a small head.

Dr Shaw says the two hours either side of dusk or dawn is the time of mosquito biting, so travellers should be extremely vigilant at having good mosquito prevention at those times. He recommends light coloured clothes as the mosquitos are attracted to dark colours.

While not currently used in the Pacific, a dengue vaccine is on the horizon.

Until then, prevention is the key, with mosquitos being sprayed in parts of the Pacific.

The symptoms of dengue fever are aching joints, headaches and fever.

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