Okay, folks, it’s time for my yearly rant about dengue fever. I’ve had it. You don’t want to get it. It’s an unforgettably unpleasant experience.
Dengue fever is endemic in Baja California Sur. It is a viral infection transmitted by mosquito bite. Of the three types of mosquitos in Baja, only the Aedes can carry the virus, which it acquires by biting an infected person.
The incubation period is from 3 to 14 days. The onset is sudden and includes muscle pain, intense headache, and complete exhausion. Pain behind the eyes and gastro-intestinal disturbances are usual. Your joints will ache violently, the source of another name for dengue: breakbone fever.
All you can do for it is to rest for 3 to 5 days and to take Tylenol for the pain. Do not take aspirin, antibiotics, or ibuprofen. Drink lots of liquids. After a few days, you’ll feel okay for about a day, followed by another bout which is often accompanied by a raised red rash. Having dengue is an unforgettably nasty experience and there is currently no effective medical treatment for it.
The Aedes mosquito, with its distinctive black and white stripes on its body, is around all year. It is a day-biting species, with increased biting activity for two hours after dawn and two hours before sunset. (Only the female bites, for she needs blood to reproduce.)
Sensible preventative measures include using a Deet-containing insect repellent freely and wearing long pants and long-sleeved tops if you will be outside during peak periods.
The most likely time for you to become infected is after a rain. With all the rains this fall, mosquitos maybe out in full force. This mosquito prefers to breed in clean stagnant water. Since it doesn’t travel very far, the best prevention is simply to eliminate any standing water in your yard and patio, especially right now after all our rains and after the occasional Christmas rain. If you have water sitting around in containers, keep it covered!
It is important to keep the mosquitos from reproducing, since the eggs can lie dormant in dry conditions for up to about 9 months, after which they can hatch if there’s any rain.
Because they can breed in a quarter of an inch of water in an abandoned plastic cup, pick up neighborhood litter. Make sure all your empty soda bottles outside are stored neck down. All flower pots should have drain holes. And don’t water your plants so much that their saucers fill with water. Recycling bins should have covers.
The mosquitos have even been known to come into a house and lay their eggs in a vase full of flowers! So change the water every two days if you have unscreened doors.
Treat all tinacos (cisterns) and other water storage containers with a chemical called Abate, which is available free of charge from your local Centro de Salud.
In the last few years, the Mexican government has begun to take dengue prevention very seriously, initiating a state-wide program called “Patio Limpio,” or clean patio.
If a Health Department representative comes to your door wanting to examine your yard, let her in. She is likely to locate possible mosquito breeding sites that you haven’t yet noticed.