Information on dengue for travelers to Sri Lanka

What is Dengue?

Dengue is an illness caused by a virus. Many people infected with dengue virus develop no symptoms at all.  Others develop dengue fever, which is a “flu-like” illness that is not life threatening.  A small minority of infected people develop a more severe life threatening form of the disease known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). In General it is thought that out of 10,000 infections, 9000 be asymptomatic and DHF to occur only in 100 out of which 90 will have only mild DHF.

How transmitted?

Dengue virus is transmitted through infected Aedes female mosquitoes. Dengue virus enters the mosquito through biting an infected person during the febrile phase. Therefore, by preventing mosquito bites you can protect yourself.

Burden of Dengue

Sri Lanka experienced a considerable increase in dengue patients during the south-western monsoon season (May – July) this year, but has done well to curtail the situation in a significant way by limiting the spread to few urban clusters at present. Therefore, anyone visiting Sri Lanka need not worry about additional risk of dengue compared to any other affected country in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, it is noteworthy given its extremely low mortality rate maintained;dengue can be managed with complete recovery in the unlikely event if anyone contracts the disease during their stay in Sri Lanka. This year where we had the biggest epidemic dengue in history we did not have a single visitor from overseas who suffered from severe life-threatening dengue. Following instructions are shared for greater awareness and protection of visiters:   

Prevention of mosquito bites

  • Wear clothing to cover exposed parts of the body at day time.g. long sleeved shirts, long pants etc.
  • Use an appropriate mosquito repellent during day time (from 6am to 10am and 4pm to 6.30pm) to cover the biting time of the mosquito
  • Use bed nets when resting during day time
  • Stay and sleep in screened/ air conditioned rooms

You are mostly vulnerable to dengue mosquito bites during day time (especially at dawn and dusk as mentioned above) and this specific biting time pattern can help you in a great way to avoid bites by dengue mosquitos

When to suspect dengue?

If you have acute onset of fever with two or more of the following symptoms dengue is suspected.

  • Headache and retro-orbital pain (pain around the eyes)
  • Muscle/ joint pain
  • Diffuse reddish rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Any bleeding manifestation: gum bleeding, nasal bleeding

What to do if you have fever

  • Seek medical advice (contact point of SLCP) / This will be readily available with all international events
  • Use correct dosage of paracetamol for fever
  • Take adequate physical rest
  • Drink adequate amount of liquids that will help you pass your usual urine output
  • Do NS1 antigen test and a Full Blood Count (CBC) with medical opinion (can be accommodated through SLCP)- again easily available and cheap. Both tests will cost less than USD 20 even in the private sector
  • Prevent mosquito bites to avoid further spread of the disease
  • Avoid non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): such as ibuprofen, diclofenac sodium, mefenamic acid etc. (take only paracetamol for fever control when you are here)
  • Avoid steroids: prednisolone, dexamethasone while having a febrile illness
  • It is best to refrain from taking red/ brown coloured drinks which may mimic bleeding

The Ministry of Health (MoH) with other relevant stakeholders in Sri Lanka has implemented a number of activities during this year to minimize dengue transmission. Entomological and epidemiological data are being closely monitored by the MoH and the evidence reveals that mosquito infestation and transmission are on the decline. Early diagnosis and proactive case management is ongoing.

For further information Contact:

National Dengue Control Unit

Ministry of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine - Sri Lanka

Email:; ;

Phone: +94-011-2368416