Objectives: Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) is an important cause of morbidity in South-east Asia and used to occur almost exclusively in young children. In recent years, there has been a progressive shift in age-distribution towards older children and adults. We investigated an outbreak in 2001 in both children and adults, in an endemic area of Thailand.
Methods: Retrospective study of 347 patients with serologically confirmed dengue infection admitted to Chonburi Hospital during an epidemic in 2001.
Results: A total of 128 (37%) patients had dengue fever (DF) and 219 (63%) had DHF. Patients with DHF were significantly older than patients with DF (11 years vs. 8 years). Clinical bleeding was noted in 124 individuals, both with DF (n = 24) and DHF (n = 100), and significantly more frequently in adults. Twenty-nine (13.2%) of all DHF cases were caused by primary infection. Secondary dengue infection was associated significantly with the development of DHF in children, OR (95% CI) = 3.63 (1.94-6.82), P < 0.0001, but not in adults, OR (95% CI) = 0.6 (0.02-6.04), P = 1. Unusual clinical manifestations were observed in 23 patients: three presented with encephalopathy and 20 with highly elevated liver-enzymes. In the latter group, four patients were icteric and nine had gastrointestinal bleeding.
Conclusion: These results indicate that DHF in South-east Asia is common in both children and adults. In dengue-endemic countries, dengue should be considered as a differential diagnosis in patients with clinical gastrointestinal bleeding in association with increased liver enzymes.