Cancun and its parent state Quintana Roo have seen a recent surge in dengue fever. It is now the state with the highest concentration of cases of this mosquito-borne illness. Additionally, the neighboring state of Yucatán, home to Chichen Itza and the beautiful city of Mérida, is close behind in cases and places the two Caribbean destinations at the top of the case list in all of Mexico.
Thankfully for travelers visiting the area, dengue fever isn’t something that should force a change in plans, but being well-informed and knowing how to reduce the risk of contraction, as well as knowing when to seek professional medical attention, is important for anyone planning a vacation in the Maya Riviera.
What Is Dengue Fever?
Dengue fever is a tropical and sub-tropical illness that is spread by the mosquito population. It most commonly produces mild symptoms, which include headaches, nausea, and muscle pain, as well as pain behind the eyes. The symptoms of dengue fever are often confused with mild flu, and this similarity to flu means that the illness is often not diagnosed, meaning the actual case numbers are potentially higher.
Unfortunately, while the illness is most often mild, it can take a more life-threatening form. These more intense symptoms can lead to serious illness and, in extreme cases, even death.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that should a traveler receive any one of the following symptoms, they need to immediately seek professional medical attention:
- Stomach/belly pain or tenderness.
- Vomiting (Atleast 3 times in a 24-hour period).
- Vomiting of blood or traces of blood in stool.
- Bleeding from the nose or gums.
- Feeling restless, irritable, or tired.
While some of these symptoms can easily be caused by non-life-threatening conditions, it is advised that due to the prevalence of dengue fever in the area, that travelers shouldn’t take the risk of writing these symptoms off as something minor without it being first confirmed by a medical professional.
How Travelers Can Protect Themselves
The advice for preventing dengue fever all revolves around one common goal, preventing mosquito bites. All travelers visiting the jungle-filled states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán should plan for this, no matter what the current statistics are on dengue fever.
Use Insect Repellant
There is an overwhelming amount of insect repellant brands on the market, and while they all make individual claims of how well they perform, the CDC has simplified how to make the choice. When purchasing repellant, check the label for any one of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a handy search tool to simplify the process of choosing the right repellant.
Wear Long Clothing When Needed
The simplest defense against mosquitos is to cover up. Especially when traveling through jungle areas on day trips, travelers should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. After all, they can’t bite what they can’t access.
Be Proactive In Preventing Their Presence
Many travelers find they are most often bothered by mosquitos at night when the insects become even more active, it’s unfortunate, but mosquitos often seek out cool and shaded areas, the same as sun-kissed travelers.
To reduce exposure, make sure that balcony doors and windows are not left open in hotel suites. While the Caribbean breeze can be enjoyable at night, it’s better to keep the suite closed up and instead rely on the air-conditioning to cool down from the tropical climate.
Furthermore, travelers are advised not to leave containers of water around. A mosquito egg can hatch in as little as 2-3 days, and small bodies of water are the perfect breeding ground for these creatures.
With the above, easy-to-follow information, travelers can drastically reduce the chance of catching this illness. And once more, while dengue fever does have the potential to be severe, the vast majority of cases are mild and require no medical intervention. But as with any risk, it pays to be prepared and informed.
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