Dengue Frequently Asked Questions

What is dengue?

Dengue or dengue fever is an infection that you get after being bitten by the dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti). Dengue is not spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms you may experience if you have contracted dengue?

In most cases of dengue, you will not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they will often resemble those of the flu: fever and/or chills, headache (pain behind the eyes), joint and muscle pain, rash, nausea and vomiting.
Very occasionally the illness can be much more serious. You may develop a nosebleed, bleeding gums, or purple-red spots on your skin. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor.

How can I avoid getting dengue?

Make sure you cannot get stung by dengue mosquitoes. If you do get stung by a mosquito carrying the dengue virus, you will be infected with dengue. Dengue mosquitoes are most active in the early morning and in the evening hours. Here's what you can do to protect yourself from mosquito bites:  

  • Use a spray/lotion with at least 30% DEET.
  • Make sure your home is free of mosquitoes; keep windows and doors closed and use mosquito nets and screens.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net both during the day and at night.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, long pants, long sleeves, socks and closed shoes.

If you have dengue, it is important to protect yourself from new mosquito bites. This will prevent the mosquito from stinging you again and spreading the virus to others.

What to do if you have dengue-like symptoms?

It is advisable to contact your general practitioner. He or she can then assess whether further testing for dengue is needed.

You've been tested and have dengue. What now?

Dengue usually goes away on its own. There are no medications to cure dengue. To relieve fever and pain, you can use paracetamol. Do not use any aspirin, diclofenac, Voltaren, ibuprofen or naproxen for the pain and fever.

Drink enough water. To prevent dehydration, dissolve Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) packets in boiled water after it has cooled and drink some throughout the day. If your symptoms get worse, you should contact your doctor.

The laboratory will notify the Public Health Department that you have tested positive for dengue. The Department will then contact you to make an appointment for a visit. During the visit, an officer from the Department will check for mosquito breeding sites around the house. Any breeding sites found will be removed or treated.

I took the test and I have dengue, but the Department of Public Health hasn't called me yet. What's the next step?

If you have taken the test and it shows that you have dengue, your family doctor will report this to the Department of Public Health. The Department of Public Health should contact you to make an appointment for a home visit. However, they may not have contacted you yet. If so, please contact the Department yourself at 715 5324.

Is dengue common on Bonaire?

Dengue is found all over the world, mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. On Bonaire, there are a few cases of dengue almost every year. The last time we had a high number of local dengue cases was in 2012. Last year and this year, almost all Latin American countries had a large number of dengue cases. Most likely, the dengue we have on the island right now arrived here from Latin America.

The weather also plays a role. As long as it continues to rain, the dengue mosquito can continue to lay eggs in stagnant water, and those eggs will hatch. And as long as there are dengue mosquitoes and the dengue virus, the mosquitoes can transmit the disease to humans.

I have had dengue before. Can I get it again?

Yes, you can get dengue again, but a different strain of it. There are four dengue variants. If you get dengue the second time, there is a small chance that you will have more severe symptoms.

Suppose I have dengue and am stung by a mosquito again. How long can the dengue mosquito carrying the virus it got from me infect others?

If you have dengue and get stung by the dengue mosquito again, you can pass the dengue virus to the mosquito. The mosquito can then infect other people. From the time you start having dengue-like symptoms, you can transmit the virus to the mosquito for up to 12 days. You can transmit the virus even if you are not having any symptoms. Therefore, please protect yourself well from mosquito bites to prevent others from getting the disease.

If I have dengue, can I spread it to others in my household?

If a dengue mosquito bites you, it could then sting your household members and transmit the disease. Therefore, it is important for everyone to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Can I receive visitors at home if I have dengue?

Yes you can. Dengue is not spread from person to person, but by mosquitoes. Therefore, it is important that you protect yourselves properly from mosquito bites. It is best to have visitors indoors and make sure the house is mosquito free.

Can someone with dengue go to nursery, daycare, school or work?

Dengue is not contagious from person to person. A child who feels well can go to daycare, kindergarten or school as usual. Adults with dengue who feel well can go to work as usual. However, it is important to protect yourself well from mosquito bites.

A dengue vaccine has recently become available. Would this vaccine protect me from getting sick?

At this time, the vaccine is only being used for people who are traveling to a dengue-prone area. You get two dengue shots and will be protected after three months. You cannot get the shots if you had dengue less than a year ago. It is not yet clear how long this vaccine will protect against dengue. The World Health Organization therefore advises against vaccinating large numbers of people at this time.

Where do dengue mosquitoes breed?

Mosquitoes thrive around people, such as in cities and neighborhoods. They lay their eggs in water containers indoors, as well as in objects that contain water around the house, such as empty bottles, food containers, tires.
The eggs hatch when they come into contact with water. The eggs can easily withstand very dry conditions and survive for months. Female mosquitoes lay dozens to hundreds of eggs up to 5 times during their lifetime.
Dengue mosquitos do not lay eggs in puddles and lakes (Papiamento: “dam”).
Adult mosquitoes rest in dark places indoors, such as in closets, under beds or behind curtains, where they are protected from wind, rain and most predators. This allows them to live longer, increasing their chances of picking up the virus from one person and passing it on to another.

What can I do personally to reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around my home?

The dengue mosquito lives around people and lays its eggs in standing clean water collected in man-made objects. Walk around your yard at least once a week and look for any objects that may hold water. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, do the following weekly:

  • Remove any objects that contain or can collect water.
  • If you cannot remove certain items, turn them upside down or use the rough side of a scouring pad to remove any eggs from smooth walls. The eggs are very small and will look like black dots.
  • Do you have barrels or containers to collect rainwater for plants or animals? If so, seal them properly to keep mosquitoes out. You can do this, for example, using a mosquito net or cloth tied with an elastic cord. Rainwater barrels and containers can breed thousands of mosquitos in no time. Please call the Public Health Department at 715-5324 for advice.
What about neighborhood spraying against mosquitoes?

Neighborhood spraying is not very effective. It kills only a small fraction of the mosquitoes. Spraying has no effect on breeding sites with eggs; the eggs that are present continue to hatch. The poison used in spraying kills not only adult mosquitoes, but also other insects and animals. It is also harmful to humans. Therefore, the Public Health Department is following the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) not to spray indiscriminately in neighborhoods. Research in recent years has shown that spraying does not prevent cases of dengue or reduce dengue epidemics.

What is the government doing to fight dengue?

The Public Health Department assigns specialized personnel to eliminate breeding grounds of disease-transmitting animals. These individuals operate within the Vector Control Department and conduct year-round inspections at locations where rainwater accumulates in barrels or drums. They apply a specialized biological agent to treat collected rainwater. Additionally, they inspect neighborhoods for mosquito breeding sites and visit places where people with poor health live or where people gather in large numbers.

General practitioners and laboratories report dengue cases to the Public Health Department. After receiving a report, the Public Health Department will contact the infected person and provide tips and recommendations. Next, an inspector from the department will visit the infected person. The inspector will check for and eliminate or treat any breeding sites around the person's home.

Do you need advice or help with rainwater stored in barrels or containers? Or do you have a lot of mosquito problems? If so, call the Public Health Department at 715-5324.