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Dengue fever in travellers: are we missing warning signs of severe dengue in a non-endemic setting?

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Worldwide, there are an estimated 50–100 million cases of dengue virus infection each year. Far North Queensland has experienced dengue epidemics, with deaths reported in outbreaks in 2004 and 2008–2009.1

A 38-year-old man presented one day after returning from Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a Sri Lankan-born Australian resident with no significant past medical history. He was admitted 10 days after the onset of a biphasic febrile illness: fever, chills, and generalised myalgia for 4 days, resolution of symptoms, then recurrence of symptoms on Day 7. On the day of admission, he developed diarrhoea and bloodstained vomiting. Dengue non-structural protein 1 (NS1) antigen was detected, and results of tests for dengue immunoglobulin (Ig) M and dengue IgG antibody were positive, suggesting secondary dengue virus infection. Persisting high fever, worsening thrombocytopenia (platelet count, < 50 × 109/L; reference interval, 150–400 × 109/L) and bloodstained vomitus led to a diagnosis of dengue fever (DF) with warning signs. The 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the management of dengue2 were followed (Box), with close monitoring of fluid status and haematocrit (HCT). On Day 4 of admission, the fever resolved, heralding the critical phase of DF. Haemoconcentration was noted, with HCT rising…