It’s a fact: the most common viral disease in humans that’s transmitted by insects is found in many tropical travel destinations. It’s called Dengue, and there’s no vaccine to prevent you from getting it. It’s actually the most common cause of illness with fever in travellers returning from Caribbean, Latin America and Southeast Asia. It also exists in other tropical areas such as certain parts of Africa. Fortunately, it’s not usually a life-threatening virus and there are ways to keep yourself safe if you know a little bit about the mosquito that carries it.
Warm and humid temperatures help the mosquito thrive, although it can survive and breed in very little water so even a dry season (when people are more likely to have water stored in open containers) can be risky. Also, because of its ability to thrive in small pools of water, the mosquito is present in both rural and urban areas. Dengue peaks at different times of year in different zones, so it’s important to be especially cautious during these times:
Southeast Asia: May-November
India: September - November
Dengue-infected mosquitoes bite most frequently either 2-3 hours after dawn, and also in late afternoon. If the day is overcast or the mosquito manages to get indoors, its activity can be all day long.
The best prevention strategy is to use personal protective measures. Ensure proper screens on windows and doors, and eliminate sources of standing water (this does not apply to treated pool water). Use bug spray, especially during peak biting times: a good choice is PICARADIN since it has little or no smell and works effectively, but DEET 30% works just as well.
Campers should use clothes, boots, tents and sleeping bag liners treated with permethrin if going to a high-risk area. Permethrin treatment is not available in Canada, but treated clothes can be purchased at Mark’s Work Wearhouse, and treated products can be imported.
When you travel to an area with a different climate your health risks change. Your best defense is to speak to a certified travel health expert to get the facts you need to know to stay as safe as possible.