Should I be Worried About Dengue Fever in Mexico?

Aedes aegypti bites human.

Aedes aegypti, one of the two varieties of mosquito that spread dengue

editor’s notes: El Codo and Dobie left some great advice in the comments, so I’ve updated this post to include some info from those who have actually survived dengue.

Milenio reports that Mexico may be the first country to approve a vaccination against dengue fever. In the past few years, Mexico has been taking decisive action to prevent the spread of dengue. For example, in Taumalipas the state government recently allocated 80 million pesos to combat aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue.

As a traveler to Mexico, should you be worried about dengue?

Good question. I’ve never spent a lot of time worrying about it and I tend to hang out in mosquito infested swamps. That said, I do have friends who have survived dengue. My advice? Wear long clothing or mosquito repellant and be aware of the symptoms, including sudden high fever and pain behind the eyes.

Dengue in Mexico:

Dengue can be an issue in Mexico’s coastal and tropical regions.

The season of greatest risk is from June through October, or during the rainy season.

The campaign against aedes aegypti seems to be working, at least in the state of Taumalipas, where only 214 cases have been reported this year. This would seem to indicate a significant drop from 2013, when 2600 total cases were reported.

Dengue is rare in the central highlands, but there are reported cases.

If you suspect you have contracted Dengue, get to an IMSS or Seguro Popular clinic. Dengue is considered serious so even if you are not a member, the doctors will see you.

If your temperature rises to 102 F or higher return to the clinica or periferico for advice. Let the doctor decide just how serious your case is. Don’t guess.

Unless the disease is causing other medical problems, supervised recuperation should be every bit as effective in a Mexican hospital bed as it would be in the USA.

Basic Dengue facts:

Unlike other carriers the species of dengue mosquito is most active during full daylight hours. It is mostly inactive after sundown.

A rash, covering the chest, abdomen, neck and upper arms is a common occurrence with Dengue.

Hourly or bi-hourly temperature taking is the best insurance that a case has not progressed from normal to hemorrhagic status, which is rare.

It is intensely critical to seek the services of a hospital if your case is hemorrhagic.

If diagnosed and treated in time, dengue is rarely fatal. Visit a doctor if you think you may have it!

Dengue can be treated with rest and hydration. Bullion broth, soda crackers, and cool  washcloth sponge baths to start with, followed by soup fresh bolillos, then fresh fruit and vegetables.

Coconut water, agua de carambola (star fruit), and lentils are all good to raise your platelet count, which gets much lower when you have dengue.

If you think you may have dengue, you should use pain relievers with acetaminophen and avoid aspirin, which could worsen bleeding.

REPEL brand Lemon Eucalyptus repellent works very well against mosquitos. The US army is using it now and says it’s comparable to DEET.

from the CDC

“Dengue is transmitted between people by the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are found throughout the world.  Insects that transmit disease are vectors.  Symptoms of infection usually begin 4 – 7 days after the mosquito bite and typically last 3 – 10 days.  In order for transmission to occur the mosquito must feed on a person during a 5- day period when large amounts of virus are in the blood; this period usually begins a little before the person become symptomatic.  Some people never have significant symptoms but can still infect mosquitoes.  After entering the mosquito in the blood meal, the virus will require an additional 8-12 days incubation before it can then be transmitted to another human. The mosquito remains infected for the remainder of its life, which might be days or a few weeks.Dengue is transmitted between people by the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are found throughout the world.  Insects that transmit disease are vectors.  Symptoms of infection usually begin 4 – 7 days after the mosquito bite and typically last 3 – 10 days.  In order for transmission to occur the mosquito must feed on a person during a 5- day period when large amounts of virus are in the blood; this period usually begins a little before the person become symptomatic.  Some people never have significant symptoms but can still infect mosquitoes.  After entering the mosquito in the blood meal, the virus will require an additional 8-12 days incubation before it can then be transmitted to another human. The mosquito remains infected for the remainder of its life, which might be days or a few weeks.”

4 Responses to “Should I be Worried About Dengue Fever in Mexico?”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    A few verified facts:

    Dengue outbreaks actually have occurred in the most unlikely of places including the central highlands, but certainly is more common in coastal lowlands.

    Unlike other carriers the specie of dengue mosquito is most active during full daylight hours. It is mostly inactive after sundown.

    Long sleeves and pants are torture in the summer lowlands. If you decide to shun them and go with shorts and T shirt I personally recommend diligently applying 100% Deet you brought from home laced with pennyroyal oil. Strip! Apply DEET and pennyroyal oil, Dress. Rub a tiny amount of both onto clothing. Do not forget to treat your scalp. The small of the back above shorts waist band is especially vulnerable and overlooked.

    Pay attention to how long you have had the DEET applied. Eight hours is it. Pure DEET. Then a reapplication is necessary. Mexican repellents are worthless. Mexicans sneer at them. Bring pure DEET from home. You can find 100% DEET in any Wal-Mart store in the USA.

    If you suspect you have contracted Dengue, get to an IMSS or Seguro Popular clinic. Dengue is considered serious so even if you are not a member, the doctors will see you.

    Purchase a thermometer at a farmacia and use it. If temperature rises to 102F or higher return to the clinica or periferico for advice. Let the doctor decide just how serious your case is. Don’t guess.

    Dengue is painful. My episode felt like i had a bad case of the flu, and decided to treat it by drinking a half liter of cane alcohol and woke up sick with a killer hangover. If your doctor approves, TRAMADOL will help relieve pain along with tylenol. A controlled medicine called TYLEX containing tylenol plus a mild dose of codeine can dull the edge of the jabs of pain.

    A rash, covering the chest, abdomen, neck and upper arms is a common occurrence with Dengue, Hourly or bi-hourly temperature taking is the best insurance that a case has not progressed from normal to hemorrhagic status which is a rare but intensely critical to seek the services of a hospital manifestation.

    Last, unless the disease is causing other medical problems supervised recuperation is every bit as effective in a Mexican bed as it is in a USA bed. Bullion broth, soda crackers, cool water cool washcloth sponge baths to start with followed by soup fresh bolillos, then fresh fruit and vegetables is the best recuperation.

    And remember, you re now immunized, against that strain of Dengue.

  2. Dobie says:

    Coconut water, agua de carambola (star fruit) and lentils are all good to raise your platelet count, which gets much lower when you have dengue. I’ve found that REPEL brand Lemon Eucalyptus repellent works very well against mosquitos here on the central Pacific coast. The US army is using it now and says it’s comparable to DEET. I haven’t used DEET since a drop fell on the floor of my tent and ate a big hole in it, and I personally would never put it directly on my skin.

  3. Churpa says:

    Thanks for the great comments! That’s extremely interesting about the mosquitos being more active in daylight hours. Do you mind if I incorporate them into the article? I agree with you about the DEET, Dobie. I watched it melt my dad’s watch once and I’ve never worn it since.

  4. -El Codo- says:

    As far as I’m concerned Churpa, DEET is evil. just the tongue twisting chemical name fosters visions of two lengthy chemical laden trains colliding head-on.

    Lorena sold me lock stock barrel and staves on Pennyroyal Oil many years ago. The stuff is natural and it really works.

    My main worry with repellents is me, myself. Forgetting to reapply before the morning application fades. A mosquito bite itches. Dengue and Malaria have profoundly more serious consequences. I am going to check out the lemon eucalyptus alternative. Seems DEET was eating the plastic stock off of military rifles!

    IMSS perifericos (IMSS clinicas) and SEGURO POPULAR clinicas are good places to get the straight dope on whether or not there is Dengue risk in whatever area a traveler happens to be in. High priority communications keep the clinicas right up to date. I would not chance asking a farmacia employee or private doctor because of a possible one to two week time lag.