Nothing demonstrates the importance of tropical medicine more than having a loved one, patient, or yourself, fall ill while on vacation. I recently received a frantic email from one of my patients vacationing in Hawaii. During her time on the island, she fell violently ill and was later diagnosed with Dengue (pronounced Deng-Gee) Fever.
Initially, I was shocked to uncover such an illness on the safe, tropical paradise of Hawaii, but after doing an online investigation of my own, I saw the island was hit by a localized Dengue outbreak.
But wait, Hawaii? The place where people go to “get away from it all?” That just didn’t make sense!
As it turns out, a warm tropical climate is the perfect breeding and feeding grounds for mosquitos. Unfortunately, evolution made this whiny little bloodsucker the perfect vector, which is the biological term for an organism that carries an infection from one host to another. This is not to be confused with the annoying villain in Despicable Me.
While the Caribbean and the South Pacific are known for their beautiful beaches and warm weather, these tropical paradises are at the center of a new epidemic of closely related mosquito-borne diseases. Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika Fever are rapidly evolving in popular tropical tourist destinations around the world.
If we’re speaking in layman’s terms, Dengue is the “Granddaddy” of this family of viral illnesses. It is typically transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and it can result in symptoms such as high fever, severe muscle and joint pain, and a life-threatening hemorrhagic fever.
With more than half of the world’s population (4 billion people) living in areas affected by Dengue, this ailment has become the most common viral disease spread to humans by mosquitos.
Unlike the nocturnal mosquito that spreads malaria, mosquitos that carry Dengue typically bite people during the day and in urban centers.
The bad news? There is no vaccine currently available to prevent Dengue, and there is no medication to treat it. The good news? You can’t develop Dengue unless an infected mosquito bites you. So, once again, prevention is key when it comes to avoiding complications from a mosquito-borne disease.
Click here to read our previous blog about ways to prevent mosquito bites. If you’re traveling to one of these tropical locations relatively soon, don’t forget to protect your children with proper clothing and insect repellent! Also, be sure to call TravelBug Health to confirm whether or not your dream destination is in a Dengue endemic area.
In regards to my patient, she recovered just fine, but not before suffering from the painful side effects of this frightening and ultimately preventable illness. As of Jan 12, 2016, 213 people have become ill as a result of the outbreak. Stay tuned next week to learn more about Dengue’s up-and coming-cousins: Chikungunya and Zika Fever.
TravelBug wishes all of you a great New Year and lots of adventures in 2016! Go explore and travel safe!