Can You Get Dengue Fever on Your Next Trip?
According to estimates by the World Health Organization, around 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of getting dengue fever. There are an estimated 50 million dengue infections occurring annually across most of the tropical and semitropical countries in the world, including most tourist destinations. The increasing number of cases and their severity and frequency are considered to be linked to factors like changing human ecology, demography, globalization, rapid urbanization and climate change.
Should you worry? Yes, if you don’t take simple precautions to avoid the disease. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 200 to 300 Canadian tourists get dengue every year. Dengue fever is not a nice disease to have. It is sometimes called “break bone fever” due to the intense joint pain that usually accompanies this infection. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. A few people develop a serious life-threatening form of the disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever. These people develop bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage that can result in dangerously low blood pressure, shock and death. There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease that lasts about a week to 10 days.
Now, that is all the bad news. The good news is that with simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting this infection because it is transmitted only by infected mosquitoes and not from other people. So, if you take measures to avoid mosquito bites while sitting on the beach or hiking in the woods or just walking about outdoors, you can stay safe.
Mosquito prevention measures include some common sense plus the following:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats, especially in the evening when biting activity increases.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
- DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and Picaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
- Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last. If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
- Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms. Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
So, to travel safe, and be healthy, use Sitata for the latest travel alerts on dengue activity throughout the world.