When my husband and I moved down to Costa Rica last September, it was a mere two weeks before my husband joined the stats of the millions across the globe that have been infected with what is Dengue virus, a mosquito born illness. When we sought help, we soon found that the virus was hardly an unusual occurrence. Literally everyone we spoke with had either experienced the virus firsthand (some up to three times) or had a loved one that had been infected.

In 2013, Costa Rica had a record of 50,000 reported cases of Dengue, but the problem is bigger than just Costa Rica; the problem is global. According to the Center for Disease Control, half the world’s population is at risk for the disease and up to 100 million people are infected yearly. The dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death among children in the 33% of the world that makes up tropics and subtropics.

Dengue Prevention Map

The prevalence of dengue in Costa Rica and in the world as a whole is apparent in the map above, the red dots represent the presence of dengue on both local and national levels.

What is Dengue? It is a virus that is carried only by mosquitos and a human can only become infected after being bit by an infected mosquito. The symptoms of the virus typically last for just over a week, and many describe it as the worst eight days of their lives. Dengue victims often have a low white blood cell count and experience several if not all of the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Severe eye pain (behind the eyes)
  • Severe joint/bone and/or muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe skin rash
  • Mild bleeding (such as nose or gums or easy bruising)

Unfortunately these symptoms sometimes progress into dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). Those infected with this rare complication of Dengue, vomit or pass blood and will experience all of the above symptoms in addition to extreme abdominal pain due to an enlargement of the liver. DHF can result in shock, massive bleeding, and even death.

There is currently no treatment and no cure. The only effective approach is prevention; which simply comes down to avoiding mosquito bites. In the tropics, this is easier said than done, but any tools to assist in this process can help save lives. Here are two of the easiest and best ways to prevent Dengue.

  • Remove Standing Water – Be sure that there is no standing water for mosquitos to breed in. Empty vases as often as every 3 days. (It takes 7 days for a mosquito to hatch).
  • Repellant – Repellant is extremely important. You can use any form of repellant such as a spray, lotion, or even soap like Osana.

Dengue is a real problem, but unlike some things, it is preventable. Simple products such as repellant can help reduce the occurrence of dengue, and can even save a life.

References:

(1)    http://www.ticotimes.net/2013/09/27/costa-rica-dengue-epidemic-sets-all-time-record-for-calendar-year-2

(2)    http://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/faqFacts/index.html