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Chikungunya and Dengue

Chikungunya and Dengue
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What are Dengue fever and Chikungunya fever?

Dengue fever and Chikungunya fever are two dangerous illnesses that are contracted through mosquito bites.

What is Dengue fever?

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever because of the muscular, joint and bone pains it causes, mainly occurs in urban areas in the tropic and subtropics. Other symptoms include a red rash, pain behind the eyes, fever, nausea and headache.

There is no vaccine for Dengue fever and you can get it again if you’ve had it before. Most cases of Dengue pass within a week; but some cases turn into Dengue haemorrhagic fever – this is more likely if you have had Dengue before. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bleeding gums, vomiting blood, breathing problems, weak and fast pulse and drowsiness. Dengue haemorrhagic fever is a medical emergency. Seek help immediately.

What is Chikungunya fever?

The symptoms of Chikungunya fever include joint and muscle pains, rash, fatigue, nausea and headache. Most Chikungunya patients get well quickly, but a few people are unlucky and find themselves suffering from joint pain and inflammation weeks or years later.

There is no vaccine for Chikungunya. It occurs in Africa, Asia, the tropical parts of the Americas and the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Avoid mosquito bites

In many regions where these diseases occur the authorities disrupt the mosquitoes’ lifecycle with spraying or fogging. As a matter of course residents will be covering water receptacles and clearing gutters and drains to control the larvae.

However, you also need to do your bit to dodge these infections. At your travel health appointment eight to six weeks before you leave, your nurse adviser will discuss mosquito-bite avoidance with you. Here is what you need to do:

Time it right

Note that if there is a risk of Dengue or Chikungunya, you should take precautions during the day as the mosquitoes that carry these viruses are active then.

Wear insect repellent

You can get more than three hours of protection from an insect repellent containing 50% DEET, though you may have to reapply more often if you are swimming or sweating a lot. Your DEET should go over your sunscreen for day-time protection. Be aware that it reduces the effectiveness of sunscreen, but factor 30 and above will offer plenty of protection. Keep insect repellent out of your eyes and mouth, and away from any broken skin. The Government of Canada has advice on insect bite prevention.

Dress for mosquito-avoidance

Mosquitoes cannot bite through loose-fitting clothing with good limb coverage. Natural fibres can be treated with a bit of DEET – but keep it away from man-made fabrics because it can cause them to melt. By the way, double wrap your insect repellent in a plastic bag: it will ruin your luggage if the bottle leaks.

When you get home…

There may be a delay between the infective mosquito bite and symptoms appearing, which means you could fall ill after you return to Canada. If you have been to an area where there are mosquito-borne illnesses such as Chikungunya and Dengue, treat a feverish illness with caution. Go and see your family physician and let them know where you have been and that you could have been exposed to these two diseases.