Dengue can spread in schools putting children at risk

3 mins
Group of girls in school uniforms in the school yard playing jump rope


Schools are places of gathering with lots of children coming and going to and from campus every day.1,2 They can also have an abundance of breeding sites for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.1-3 This makes them a high-risk environment for the spread of dengue through the exposure of children (and staff) to the day-biting Aedes mosquitoes.1-3


A hotbed of Aedes mosquito activity

Mosquitoes can thrive in school.2-4 A study in Mexico showed that Ae. Aegypti mosquitoes were present in every one of the 24 schools tested over a 15-month period.3 Of the mosquitoes found, over 60% were present inside classrooms.3 Another study in Colombo, Sri Lanka, found over 60% of schools had live mosquito breeding sites.3


There is no shortage of places for Aedes mosquitos to breed in schools

Outside of the classroom, playgrounds, toilets, and school roofs are all suitable places for Aedes mosquitoes to lay their eggs.2 There may also be an array of water-holding containers including coolers, drums, tins, barrels, tanks, vases, and discarded containers (such as bottles or cans) available to the mosquitoes.2

In some instances, schools have had to close for extended periods of time because of the unusually high numbers of dengue cases recorded within them.5

Missing time from school because of dengue can have far-reaching effects for the child and their family.6,7

In a city (Fortaleza) of Brazil, 86% of school children (5–13 years old) studied, with confirmed with dengue (and experiencing symptoms of the disease) missed school because of their illness, for an average of 4 days.6 There was also a knock-on effect for the caregivers; for about a fifth of children with confirmed symptomatic dengue, their illness led to the primary caregiver missing work – for an average of 1.5 days.6


Everyone has a part to play in helping to keep schools safe from dengue

Children can:2

  • Ensure they wear long-sleeved clothes and use insect repellents

  • Correctly dispose of used plastic cups, glasses, and bottles

  • Share information with, and motivate, other children

Teachers can:2

  • Encourage and educate children in dengue prevention and control activities

  • Regularly monitor and eliminate possible school mosquito breeding sites

  • Ensure all water storage containers are covered and solid waste is properly disposed of

Management can:2

  • Coordinate with other departments e.g. health, civic and sanitation bodies

  • Oversee any needed repairs e.g. leakages

Schools can drive positive change within the community against dengue

“The school is one of the best places where health education and health promotion can take place.”


– World Health Organization (A dengue-free me: a campaign on the prevention and control of dengue for health promoting schools)8

Schools with their students are essential places to engage a community in dengue prevention.9,10 Studies have shown that engaging school children as “health messengers” can help bring about changes in the behavior of the wider community with respect to dengue prevention.10,11


Supporting schools the right way...

Schools with their students are in the dual position of being vulnerable to the spread of dengue but also being vital for educating communities on disease prevention.1,2,9 With this in mind, they should be both supported in preventing dengue transmission among their pupils as well as in spreading information about dengue prevention within their community.



Related content

Camila, a creative child who loves painting alarmed her grandmother when she appeared unusually pale and weak one day. Camila had pains all over and it turned out that she had dengue which greatly worried both her and her grandmother. She may have contracted dengue during a school trip to a mosquito-infested area. There was a missed spot on her body without insect repellent as she had a scab there and Camila wonders if a mosquito could have bitten her there.


This video features real individuals sharing their experiences with dengue. The video reflects a patient’s specific experience and is not intended to represent those of a typical patient. Given the nature of dengue, symptoms and experiences will vary.


  1. Queensland Government. Available at: Accessed December 2023.

  2. National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control ( Available at: Accessed December 2023.

  3. Louis VR, et al. Pathog Glob Health. 2016;110(2):79-86.

  4. García-Rejón JE, et al. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2011;84(3):489-96.

  5. Times of India. Available at: Accessed December 2023.

  6. Coelho I, et al. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020;103(1):100-111. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.19-0521.

  7. Weerasinghe NP, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022;22(1):657.

  8. WHO. Available at: Accessed December 2023.

  9. Díaz-González EE, et al. Health Educ Res. 2020 Oct 1;35(5):376-395.

  10. Roja C, et al. Cureus. 2022;14(7):e26536.

  11. Alok S, Nessa S, Ahil SB. School Training Strategies for Prevention and Control of Dengue. Indian J Community Med. 2020;45(1):106-107.