Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes. It is widespread in many parts of the world and is especially prevalent in the Caribbean region.
The infection is usually mild and passes after about 1 week without causing any lasting problems. But in rare cases it can be very serious and potentially life threatening.
In 2019 a total number of fifteen dengue cases were recorded in the Cayman Islands. Of these, 9 are believed to have been locally transmitted while the other 6 are considered imported cases as the patients had travelled to a country with year-round transmission of dengue.
As there is no sustained transmission of the disease, dengue is not categorised as endemic to the Cayman Islands. However, it is still wise to avoid being bitten by a mosquito and to familiarise yourself with the symptoms should you become sick.
There is no specific treatment or widely available vaccine for dengue. Most people recover without complications using pain relievers and bed rest. Aspirin should be avoided.
Dengue is spread by infected mosquitoes, usually the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus varieties. The mosquitoes get infected by biting an infected person in the first week of the illness. The virus cannot be spread directly form person-to-person.
About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. Even if you do not feel sick, travellers returning from areas with risk of dengue should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread dengue to mosquitoes that could go on to spread the virus to other people.
There are four types of the dengue virus. For this reason, a person can be infected with a dengue virus as many as four times in his or her lifetime. Those most at risk for developing severe dengue are those who have had the infection before, pregnant women, and infants.
The severe form of dengue, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF), can lead to circulatory system failure and shock, and can be fatal.
Symptoms usually develop about 5 to 8 days after being bitten. Symptoms can include:
- High temperature, or feeling hot/shivery
- Severe headache
- Pain behind the eyes
- Muscle and joint pain
- Feeling or being sick
- A widespread red rash (may not be visible on dark-skinned persons)
- Tummy pain and loss of appetite
In rare cases dengue can be very serious and potentially life threatening. Signs of severe dengue can include:
- Severe tummy pain
- Swollen tummy
- Being sick repeatedly and vomiting blood
- Bleeding gums or bleeding under the skin
- Breathing difficulties or fast breathing
- Cold, clammy skin
- A weak but fast pulse
- Drowsiness or loss of consciousness
How to Stay Safe
The best way to protect yourself against dengue fever is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. The following can reduce your risk of being bitten:
- Use mosquito repellents
- Products with DEET and Picaridin provide the best protection (not suitable for infants younger than 2 months)
- Research the best repellent that would be suitable for your needs
- If sunscreen is also needed, apply sunscreen first and repellent second
- During peak mosquito hours (late afternoon), wear lose but protective clothing – mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothes
- When indoors, stay in air-conditioned or screen areas
- Pre-soak or spray outer layer clothing with permethrin
Another precaution you can take is to reduce the Aedes aegypti population locally by clearing yards of containers that can hold water, as these are favourite breeding sites.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions in Caribbean/Latin America region.