A vaccine against dengue has been on the Dutch market since April 2023. And as of 1 May, it is also available at Travel Clinic Erasmus MC. The vaccine is particularly important for people who have already had dengue and are traveling to endemic regions. Reinfection with the virus increases the risk of serious complications and as yet no drugs are effective against the disease.
Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms of dengue include the abrupt onset of fever, shivering, severe headache (especially behind the eyes), and often characteristic muscle and joint pains. This is why it is also known as ‘breakbone fever’. People with dengue generally get better on their own within a few days, but in some cases, the infection develops into severe dengue. This is called dengue hemorrhagic fever and can become life-threatening if not treated.
You can become infected with dengue fever more than once. In fact, there are four different types (strains) of dengue. Once you have been infected with one strain of the dengue virus, you will build up lifelong immunity to that strain, but not for the other strains. This means that you can contract dengue several times. A second infection increases the risk of serious complications. A third or forth infection decreases the risk.
The infection is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, in particular the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during daylight hours and can also transmit the chikungunya and Zika viruses. These mosquitoes are found in areas close to human habitation. They breed in water-filled containers such as old car tires, empty cans, barrels, buckets, flower vases, gutters, etc.
Most people (up to 80%) with dengue infections are asymptomatic. Those who do develop symptoms will usually experience something like flu, with a high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and red skin rashes. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.
In some cases, the infection develops into severe dengue: dengue hemorrhagic fever. This is uncommon. In these cases, bruising, bleeding nose or gums, restlessness, and thirst will then also occur in addition to the symptoms already mentioned. Hemorrhage and shock can also occur. This can be fatal. Dengue hemorrhagic fever occurs almost exclusively in travelers who have previously had dengue.
It is estimated that 90 million people worldwide become ill every year, of whom 500,000 become seriously ill, particularly children. In the Netherlands, dengue only occurs among travelers returning from abroad. About 150 infections are reported in the Netherlands every year, of which a few cases will develop serious complications.
The new vaccine prevents infection in about 80% of cases and, most importantly, offers good protection against severe (hemorrhagic) dengue infection. It prevents 95% of hospital admissions due to dengue.
The vaccination consists of a series of two doses, with the second dose being given after three months. It is important to get both doses.
The duration of protection is currently unknown.
The vaccine is particularly important for people who have already had dengue and are traveling to regions where dengue is endemic. The risk of severe infection is higher for these people.
The vaccine is not given to children under the age of four, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or people with immune disorders. Moreover, it is important that you are able to complete the whole series, which means that you will need to get your first dose more than three months before departure.
The dengue vaccination has been available since 1 May and costs €124.95 per shot.