Disease risks for travel to Belize

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 18-24, 1997
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Disease risks for travel to Belize
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Disease risks for travel to Belize
Question: I'm planning to travel to Belize in October, but I heard a dengue epidemic broke out in Costa Rica. Is there a (higher) risk for me?

Gerald Aschacher
Vienna, Austria
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: After an exhaustive newspaper-clip search, as well as a check into the U.S. State Department's travel advisory web page (http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html) and a check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (888-232-3299), I've found nothing that links Costa Rica's dengue fever outbreak to Belize.

The latest outbreak is centered around the Pacific coastal city of Puntarenas where one person has died since the warnings began in mid-June. Actually, this year's reports of dengue fever in Costa Rica are substantially lower than in previous years.

As of mid-summer only 115 cases had been reported, whereas last year's count was 2,289. In 1995, dengue fever peaked in Central America, with 19,263 cases reported in Honduras, but only 107 reported in Belize.

One good thing is you'll be traveling during Belize's dry season, which substantially lowers the risk of acquiring dengue. Transmitted by the bite of the aedes mosquito, dengue fever's symptoms include headaches, high fever, pain around the eyes, joint pain, and diarrhea.

Hemorrhagic dengue can cause blood vessels to leak and is quite serious, though very rare among travelers. For your own piece of mind, I'd suggest making sure you use insect repellent on skin and clothing and use bednets if you're sleeping in quarters that aren't screened or air-conditioned.

I'd also suggest you call an outfitter that operates trips in Belize and ask them if they've heard any news regarding the outbreak. One such company is Slickrock Adventures based in Moab, Utah (800-390-5715).

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