Dengue Fever

Ciudad de Merida – 88F/75F, Wind N at 4mph, Humidity 52-100%, THUNDERSTORM by 4pm 80%

Dengue Fever.  I hadn’t planned on sharing this most recent adventure with you all, but brother Joel convinced me that it might be worthwhile in the long run.  I contracted Dengue Fever about a week ago, and am still working on getting over it.  So, why wouldn’t I want to share?

  1. I didn’t want to cause worry for those of you who care about me and are concerned with my well-being (especially family and close friends).  I know that some you worry too much (it’s your natures), and feel that somehow I can’t take care of myself at age 65 (even though I’ve done a pretty good job so far).  Some think that I am “too much” of a risk taker especially at this point in my life … but there is a difference between being foolhardy, and taking a clearly calculated risk.  Before continuing let me say:  I AM FINE AND IN NO DANGER.  I am still sick and feel uncomfortable, but I’ve been sicker (much sicker) and more uncomfortable (much more uncomfortable) in the States.  But I will admit that being older does allow stuff like this to hit you harder and longer.
  2. I didn’t want to reinforce any negative, stereotypical perceptions of Mexico in general, and the Yucatan in particular.  “If you live in Mexico you WILL DIE!”  Not only is that NOT the case, but so far from the case as to be laughable.  You will not die because you live in Mexico.
  3. I want to keep this blog positive, and not be the typical Americano abroad who complains about each and every thing that is not American.  Read any travel journal today and typically the author will try to scare the shit out of you with all of his or her horror stories … the more they scare you, the braver he or she looks in print.

So, brother Joel said:  “I think that you owe it to your readers to be honest with them … share both the good and the bad about our travels [but keep it in perspective].”  Good advice.

Dengue Fever, like Malaria, is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito (not human to human contact).  And there are a ba-zillion mosquitos down here (just like in the American South).  Dengue Fever is a close cousin to the West Nile Virus that is now plaguing the USA from the East Coast to the West Coast.  There is no vaccine for Dengue Fever and no treatment other than what you would do for influenza (bed rest, drinking lots of fluids and monitoring symptoms).  There are basically four degrees of severity of Dengue Fever:  1.  Most people get mild infections with few symptoms, a short duration period and low fever.  2.  Some get combinations of intense fever (spiking at 106F), pain behind the eyes, pain in the bones and joints (World War II Veterans called it Bone-crusher Fever), body-rash and mild nose bleeds.  3.  Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and 4.  Dengue Shock Syndrome.  Severities 3. and 4. can cause death in some cases.

My case is probably a 1+/2-.  Mild fever (100-101F), headache, complete loss of appetite, fatigue, mild bone aches and full body-rash (itches like the devil).  About a week ago I developed a severe rash in the groin area (no … not a STD … you have to be a player to get those) that I assumed was a heat rash (the weather has been very hot and humid of late).  While the rash was spreading I got the fever, headache, bone aches, loss of appetite (good for weight loss), severe fatigue (slept all the time) … and did I mention the rash kept spreading?  It finally covered almost every square inch of my body like measles (including the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet), but spared my face.  That is a unique trait of the Dengue Fever body-rash, it spares the face … guess it figures we’re all ugly enough.

I seem to be on the mend (I had my first “sort-of” meal today … a small torta … the first in 3 days), the headache is mostly gone, the bone aches are mild, the fever is gone and the body-rash is receding (but not nearly fast enough).  I’ve been taking two showers a day and slathering on Caladryl lotion to help with the itching.  The fatigue remains (and I sleep a lot), but I think that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So now I feel like a real-life Indiana Jones kind of explorer … I’ve experienced a Tropical Fever.  Swell.  So how could I have prevented this?

  1. Unlike most foreigners, tourists and expats I wear long pants (not shorts), and long-sleeved shirts (but with the sleeves usually  rolled up).
  2. I burn mosquito coils in my room every night (we don’t have A/C in the house which normally prevents mosquitos … but it didn’t at Suites del Sol … we had mosquitos EVEN with the A/C).
  3. I used a plant-based mosquito repellant when I knew I would be in an area prone mosquitos (everywhere in the Yucatan).

What I NEED TO DO going forward:

  1. Replace the plant-based mosquito repellant with 30%+ DEET.  Continue to wear long pants.
  2. Either roll the sleeves down on my long-sleeved shirts OR cover my bare skin with DEET.
  3. Wear socks.  The two favorite bite-sites on the human body are behind the elbows and on the ankles (go figure).

Once you have Dengue Fever you are NOT immune!  In fact it is more likely that you will contract the more severe types in the future if you’re bitten by an infected mosquito.  My friends here in Mexico be forewarned, and my friends back in the States be careful too (West Nile Virus is just as serious).  Let my case be your cautionary tale.  If you are interested I have attached a link to a more detailed explanation of Dengue Fever:  I’m going back to bed …

Buenas tardes y adios amigos 

14 responses to “Dengue Fever

  1. Oh cousin..I am so sorry to hear about your illness. You did not metion if you had gone to see a doctor, did you? Is there an antibotic to help with the symptoms? I hope you recover quickly and do not contact this again. I am glad to hear you are going to use the DEET even though it is not natural…better to be safe. Keep us all posted on your health and everything else. Love to both you and Joel. cousin sherry

    • No Doc. It’s a mosquito-born virus so antibiotics don’t work. If it morphs into a dangerous phase you go to the hospital. But I am now getting better, and I would consider my case mild to moderate. No worries (just itchies at this point). 😀

  2. Wow Steve. What an important post (a cautionary tale) and so well written. I hope you get back to your usual good health very soon. I will be looking for updates. How did Joel escape the same fate?

  3. I have confidence in you that your not going to die. When I was younger raising a family I was very fortunate to have Doctors that took phone calls and made house calls , when any member of my family was sick.

    One time we all got ill, I told him we were in Mexico and could it have been the water we drank. He laughed and and asked me. Do you know what the doctors tell their patients when they go to the USA? Don’t drink the water.

    True story, hope it gave you a chuckle. You will be back to the Steve, I know, quicker than you think.God Bless You and I will light a candle for you Sunday in church. Dave & Ann

    • Thanks Steve. It’s an ADVENTURE. No regrets whatsoever, I should have done this years ago. Just have to watch out for the pesky skeeters (they will kick your ass).

  4. Hi there! I was just doing some research on possible long-term effects of dengue when I stumbled across this post. I’m currently living in Costa Rica, and while dengue isn’t an issue where I live in central CR, in mid-August I was working an eye clinic on the Caribbean coast for a few days and came down with it (mine was a 2 by your scale and I was utterly incapacitated…owwww) and so now I’m researching the heck out of it, because that’s what I do (:
    I’m really interested in tropical diseases so I think it’s cool that I got to experience it for myself…although I hope I won’t ever have to again! It wasn’t pleasant, but it was an adventure nonetheless.
    So thanks for posting; this was a good read.

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