Dengue is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical countries. There is no vaccine currently available. The symptoms include fever, headache, joint pain and a characteristic rash that looks like measles. In the first nine days of July, a hospital in Alajuela which borders Nicaragua has delt with 133 patients per day, due to a heavy presence of dengue. This medical center was overwhelmed and minor procedures, were suspended because almost all resources were occupied by treating patients infected by the disease, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. In the interim, this hospital is actually closing due to its need to focus on helping patients with dengue symptoms. Doctor Ortega, the director of the hospital describes this situation as critical, as there are 60 cases, which have been confirmed by laboratory testing and up to 400 people who have been diagnosed medically.
“This is the first time we have in Upala an outbreak of this magnitude, if not performed more aggressive vector control, this could get out of our hands,” said Ortega.
Should Tourists Be Concerned?
Tourists should be prepared, but not concerned. First of all, the mosquito which carries the Dengue virus is only active in very remote tropical areas of Costa Rica. I would be surprised if there are any cases in the Central Valley. Yes, I have gone into the jungle unprotected and have received many mosquito bites in Costa Rica. have I experienced Dengue? Absolutely not. I’m not saying don’t worry. I was stupid for forgetting insect repellent and certainly could have been putting my health at risk. Whenever you are in a tropical climate, where there are mosquitoes, you must always use insect repellent with DEET.
Dengue might not kill you, but it can be very disabling. It will ruin your trip if you get it. Keep in mind there are two stages to the virus. The second infection can result in hemorrhagic fever, about 5% of the time, which can cause permanent joint damage. This is why they call this virus – the bone break virus. Victims literally feel like their joints are falling apart.
Facts About Dengue in Costa Rica
- About 60% of the outbreaks occur in the Caribbean, North Pacific and Central Pacific regions.
- 12,000 cases of dengue have been reported in 2013. Of those, 60 resulted in dangerous hemorrhagic fever.
- Since 1993, there have been 22 deaths caused by dengue. One death was reported in 2013.
- The public health care system in Costa Rica (CAJA) spends around $9 million per year combating the disease.
Final fact, the presence of dengue fever in Costa Rica should not change your travel plans whatsoever. I don’t think there has ever been a case of a North America who acquired dengue fever in Costa Rica. I could be wrong, but you would think it would be all over the news. Come on down and don’t forget to use insect repellent.