Dengue fever in Costa Rica?

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.

Week of September 28-October 5, 1995

Rock climbing in Thailand
Why the Caymans still rule the world of scuba
Dengue fever in Costa Rica?
Whitewater canoeing in Manitoba
Kentucky’s gorgeous Red River Gorge
Tennessee’s best backpacking getaway

Dengue fever in Costa Rica?
Q: I’d like to go to Costa Rica, but the U.S. State Department report claims that thousands of cases of Dengue fever have been reported on both coasts recently. None of the travel medicine sites (Stanford University, University of Wisconsin) or the CDC corroborate
that Costa Rica poses such a risk. There is a variant, called Dengue Hemorraghic Fever, which is quite rare. Is this a real risk if one goes with a well-known and qualified travel outfitter? Thanks.
Sunnyvale, CA

A: Recent epidemics of dengue or “breakbone” fever have occurred in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua, and thousands of cases of dengue have been reported in Costa Rica since 1993. Except during periods of epidemic, however, there is only a low risk for travelers to pick up the fever.

A viral infection, dengue is spread by the bite of the Aedes mosquito and results in a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms such as high fever, headaches, and a rash. The mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, and reside particularly in populated areas of the tropics and subtropics, although they are rarely found at elevations above 4,000 feet. A more severe version
of dengue, dengue hemorrhagic fever, is extremely rare among travelers.

Take some simple precautions to lessen the already remote chance of picking up the disease: As epidemics usually occur during and immediately after the rainy season, which begins in May and runs through November, limit your travel during this season. Douse yourself with bug repellent to prevent mosquito bites, and, as a general rule, always pay attention to the quality of
your drinking water and food.

To help ease your mind, know that Costa Rica Experts, 800-837-9046, which sends four to five thousand tourists to Costa Rica each year, has never had any of their clients pick up dengue, even though most of their trips are individually tailored and send people off the beaten path. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 404-332-4559, and the U.S. Department of State
Worldwide Travel Advisory, 202-647-5225, provide the most updated information on the risk in individual countries.

The Q&A archives | Ask the travel expert

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

promo logo