One dengue fever vaccine, Dengvaxia, is currently approved for use in those ages 9 to 45 who live in areas with a high incidence of dengue fever. The vaccine is given in three doses over the course of 12 months. Dengvaxia prevents dengue infections slightly more than half the time.
The vaccine is approved only for older children because younger vaccinated children appear to be at increased risk of severe dengue fever and hospitalization two years after receiving the vaccine.
The World Health Organization stresses that the vaccine is not an effective tool, on its own, to reduce dengue fever in areas where the illness is common. Controlling the mosquito population and human exposure is still the most critical part of prevention efforts.
So for now, if you're living or traveling in an area where dengue fever is known to be, the best way to avoid dengue fever is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that carry the disease.
If you are living or traveling in tropical areas where dengue fever is common, these tips may help reduce your risk of mosquito bites:
- Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing. The mosquitoes that carry the dengue viruses are most active from dawn to dusk, but they can also bite at night.
- Wear protective clothing. When you go into mosquito-infested areas, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and shoes.
- Use mosquito repellent. Permethrin can be applied to your clothing, shoes, camping gear and bed netting. You can also buy clothing made with permethrin already in it. For your skin, use a repellent containing at least a 10 percent concentration of DEET.
- Reduce mosquito habitat. The mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus typically live in and around houses, breeding in standing water that can collect in such things as used automobile tires. You can help lower mosquito populations by eliminating habitats where they lay their eggs. At least once a week, empty and clean containers that hold standing water, such as planting containers, animal dishes and flower vases. Keep standing water containers covered between cleanings.