Dengue Fever in Tanzania

In the Sunday of 17th March 2019, Tanzania Ministry of Health announced the confirmed outbreak of dengue fever in Tanzania.

11 patients had been diagnosed with the disease in the country’s largest city of Dar es Salaam.

In a statement, the permanent secretary of the ministry of Health stressed “The ministry is aware of the outbreak of Dengue fever in Dar es Salaam and 11 patients have been diagnosed with the disease. The government has started to take control measures to check the disease from spreading further”

The outbreak which is 5th in the history of Tanzania would go and affect about 3,000 people exceeding the 2014 outbreak by over 1000 cases. Prior to the most recent outbreak, the 2014 outbreak was considered the worst Dengue fever in Tanzania as more than 2,000 people were affected.

The other outbreaks of Dengue fever in Tanzania before 2019 occurred in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The virus responsible for these previous outbreaks especially the one of 2014 showed the similarities with the virus in China, India, East Timor and Singapore.

This similarity of the virus suggested that these outbreaks of Dengue in Tanzania might have been introduced by travellers from Asia.

Dengue Fever, a Global Overview

Each year about 50 to 500 million people are infected worldwide while at least 10,000 deaths associated with dengue fever are reported every year.

While Dengue has affected almost the whole world as people travel from a country to another, Asia and South America have seen more outbreaks with Africa following closely.

Dengue Fever Vaccination

Dengue is understood to exist since 1770’s.

Nevertheless, scientists started the long journey to developing vaccine as early as 1929, a journey which wouldn’t succeed up until 2010’s and in 2016 to be exact, Dengue vaccine named Dengvaxia became commercially available in 11 countries.

Below is the list of the countries the vaccine became available;

  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • Brazil
  • El Salvador
  • Costa Rica
  • Paraguay
  • Guatemala
  • Peru
  • Thailand
  • Singapore

The cost for a Dengvaxia is somewhere between $70 and $250 wherein Indonesia for example, a Dengue Vaccine costs up to US$207 for the recommended 3 doses.

After Dengvaxia came into use for a certain period of time, it was found more effective for the people who have been previously infected.

In 2017, Dengvaxia manufacturer themselves recommended that the vaccine should only be used by people who have previously had dengue infection.

According to the report, most individuals who took Dengvaxia were put at risk of severe dengue if they had no prior exposure to infection than those who had had an infection before.

A Quick Takeaway about Dengue Fever

Before we look more on the Dengue fever in Tanzania, let’s see these general takeaways about Dengue Fever;

  • Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus.
  • Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection
  • Dengue fever symptoms include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash.
  • Recovery generally takes two to seven days
  • Dengue is spread by several species of female mosquitoes
  • When a mosquito carrying dengue virus bites a person, the virus enters the skin together with the mosquito’s saliva
  • A vaccine for dengue fever has been approved and is commercially available in a number of countries
  • The vaccine, however, is only recommended in those who have been previously infected.
  • Dengue has become a global problem since the Second World War and is common in more than 110 countries
  • Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is recommended instead of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for fever reduction and pain relief in dengue
  • About half a million people require hospital admission every year.
  • Each year between 50 and 528 million people are infected and approximately 10,000 to 20,000 die.
  • The earliest descriptions of Dengue fever outbreak date as back as in 1779.
  • Apart from eliminating the mosquitos, work is ongoing for medication targeted directly at the virus
  • Typically, people infected with dengue virus are asymptomatic (80%) (Just carrier with no symptoms)
  • Few only experiences mild symptoms such as an uncomplicated fever, while;
  • Others have more severe illness (5%), and in a small proportion, it is life-threatening.
  • The incubation period (time between exposure and onset of symptoms) ranges from 3 to 14 days, but most often it is 4 to 7 days
  • Dengue can also be transmitted via infected blood products and through organ donation
  • International Anti-Dengue Day is observed every year on 15 June.
  • There are no specific antiviral drugs for dengue.
  • Maintaining proper fluid balance is important if you want to defeat Dengue
  • Patients who are able to drink, are passing urine, have no “warning signs” and are otherwise healthy can be managed at home with daily follow-up and oral rehydration therapy.
  • Most people with dengue recover without any ongoing problems.
  • The fatality rate by Dengue Fever is 1–5% and less than 1% with adequate treatment.
  • Dengue is common in more than 110 countries
  • In 2013 it caused about 60 million symptomatic infections worldwide, with 18% admitted to hospital and about 13,600 deaths.

Source; Wikipedia

Dengue Fever in Tanzania

At the beginning of this article, I told you that the country has had about five outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Tanzania.

In the most recent outbreak which came into existence in 2019 and affected more than 6,500 left at least 14 people killed.

In most of its existence, Dar es Salaam was an epicentre for the outbreak although it later spread into different regions.

Here are the following regions which were affected by Dengue Fever in Tanzania;

  • Dar es Salaam
  • Arusha
  • Kagera
  • Kilimanjaro
  • Lindi
  • Morogoro
  • Pwani
  • Ruvuma
  • Singida
  • Dodoma
  • Tanga

Avoid Dengue Fever in Tanzania by;

Although the most recent outbreak seems to vanish, we’re by no means going to ignore this disease. By following the following measures, travellers will reduce the risk of mosquito bites which are the most infection agent.

  • Using mosquito repellent containing 20%-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin will help you avoid Dengue Fever in Tanzania
  • I would advise you wear neutral-coloured (beige, white and light grey) clothing. Colours like red, black and bright floral will only lead to mosquito attacks
  • If possible (I hope it is :)) wear long-sleeved, breathable garments.
  • Keeping water containers around dwellings will only attract mosquito and even influence their reproduction.
  • Ensuring that the door and window screens work properly goes without saying
  • Always sleep under a mosquito net

Conclusion

At Earthlife, we believe our customers’ safety always lies in our hands.

With that context, we’re always focused and determined to ensure that our customers are never in a risk.

We have achieved that by maintaining transparency while advising appropriate measures for any case that may pose risk to our customers, even when the risk is minimal.

While at the moment Dengue Fever is no longer a threat in the country, I don’t see a reason why we won’t have to ensure that we take appropriate measures to avoid Dengue transmission.

It is also important to understand that taking measures to avoid Dengue will automatically help us avoid Malaria as a result.

Whether you’re in Africa, South America or in Asia, it is crucial that we take note on the measures that are proved to help to reduce the risk of getting Dengue.

While a vaccine is available for people living in some Dengue endemic countries, it’s commercial availability is restricted for travellers.

If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to read this one about Ebola in Tanzania