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1 November 2013

Locally-acquired Dengue fever case confirmed in the Pilbara

The first case of dengue fever acquired in Western Australia in more than 70 years has been confirmed by WA Health.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes a usually self-limiting illness with symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and rash. Infections are often severe enough to result in hospitalisation.

Dengue virus transmission requires the presence of particular types of Aedes mosquitoes that have not been found naturally anywhere in WA for more than 40 years. In Australia, these mosquitoes only occur in North Queensland and the Torres Strait islands, where outbreaks of dengue fever occur periodically.

While locally-acquired dengue fever has not been reported in WA since before World War II, notifications of dengue fever in WA have increased from 16 in 2006 to 532 cases in 2012 as a result of people travelling to countries where the disease is endemic. Most cases have been acquired in Bali and other holiday destinations in southeast Asia.

The unusual local case is a resident of Point Samson in the Pilbara, who has not travelled outside the state. It is most likely that an infected mosquito hitched a ride to the Point Sampson area on a ship, in personal belongings of someone returning from overseas, or possibly in a vehicle travelling from north Queensland, and then bit the local person.

WA Health is investigating by searching for imported mosquitoes of the type that carry the dengue virus and for evidence of other infected people in the area in which the known case lived and worked. However, a spokesperson said that currently there was no indication that exotic mosquitoes are present or that there have been other human infections, and the risk of other cases appeared to be extremely low.

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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