Although Zika Virus captured the media’s attention last year, mosquito borne diseases have since faded from the public’s memory. Although Zika does remain as a threat, those of you who choose to vacation on far-flung shores may want to learn more about other perilous diseases.
Malaria is the deadliest of mosquito borne diseases
As a mosquito borne disease that’s as old as time itself, malaria causes millions of deaths each year. While we’ve successfully eradicated in the West, some regions continue to struggle to control it. Thanks to its low infective dose, malaria can produce severe consequences with a single mosquito bite. It’s, therefore, advisable to check out the CDC’s malaria map and purchase your anti-malarial medications accordingly.
As many an anti-Malarone proponent will happily tell you, anti-malarial drugs don’t provide 100% coverage. However, they do significantly reduce your risk of catching a disease that can lead to liver failure and cerebral side effects. Depending on where you travel to, your symptoms can present between three weeks and 12 months after you receive the infected bite. As such, it’s a good idea to see a doctor promptly if you experience flu-like symptoms within 12 months of visiting a malaria endemic region.
Dengue Fever can disrupt your Caribbean travels
Although Dengue fever is less likely to result in death than malaria, it can impact your ability to function for a few months. Unlike the mosquitoes that carry malaria, those that transmit Dengue operate during the day. They’re present in sub-tropical regions and pose a significant risk to infants.
Flu-like symptoms including fevers, chills, muscle aches, and tiredness appear around four days after the infective bite. At present, no specific anti-virals ‘cure’ Dengue, but they can offset the symptoms a little. Around 1-2 percent of cases result in severe consequences, including death.
Your best protection against Dengue is to use DEET liberally, wear long, light, loose clothing, and turn the air conditioning to below 17 degrees in your hotel room.
Yellow fever is one of the few mosquito borne diseases you can vaccinate against
As a disease that’s present in certain parts of Africa and South America, yellow fever results in death, severe bleeding, or organ failure in around 15-percent of people who catch it. Fortunately, receiving a yellow fever vaccination is an absolute must if you’re traveling to an endemic country. Failing to do so means you won’t receive your yellow fever certificate. Why is the certificate so important? It’s your gateway to entering and exiting endemic countries, so unless you want to spend time in dubious quarantine facilities, you’ll carry one.
Like many mosquito-borne diseases, yellow fever produces quite non-specific symptoms. They include a fever, chills, a headache, and muscle aches. Although the yellow fever vaccination is very effective, you should still douse yourself in DEET and consider treating your clothes with Permethrin if you’re going hiking.
The bottom line? If you’re traveling somewhere tropical this year, investigate which mosquito borne diseases your destination of choice features. Pursue the right prophylaxis measures available, vaccinate wherever possible, and follow some common sense bite prevention tips. Always remember, your best efforts may still not prevent the worst from happening. Although it’s rare amongst those who try adequate protective measures, you should look out for flu-like symptoms and seek medical attention if they arise.
Otherwise, enjoy your travels!