The number of dengue fever cases reported in Hong Kong has hit a 10-year high, the Department of Health revealed on Friday.

So far this year 41 cases of the disease have been recorded – 40 of them imported into the territory and one originating locally. The figure is higher than in the corresponding period for more than a decade.

The health department said it expected the number to rise further as peak tourist season kicks off.

Two confirmed cases were recorded during the last week. The patients revealed they had travelled to Malaysia and the Maldives during the incubation period – the period in between exposure to an infection and the time it takes for the first symptoms to appear. The incubation period for dengue fever is two to seven days.

Symptoms of an initial infection of dengue are usually mild. However subsequent infections, even years afterwards, are more likely to result in a potentially fatal complication called dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF).

According to the World Health Organization, symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding and breathing difficulty, with children and the elderly particularly vulnerable.

“Without proper treatment, the DHF case fatality rate can exceed 20 per cent,” said the department spokesperson.

While no licensed dengue vaccine is available, the department recommended the public take anti-mosquito precautions and maintain strict environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

Dengue is not transmittable through direct person-to-person contact.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.