Dengue Fever in Mexico

Map showing distribution of dengue in Mexico
••• Distribution of Dengue in Mexico. Courtesy Secretary of Health, Mexico

Dengue is an illness that is spread by mosquitoes. Similar to Zika and Chikungunya, people with this illness may have fever, aches and pains, and other complications. Cases of dengue fever are on the rise in many parts of the world, including Central and South America, and Africa, as well as many parts of Asia. Mexico has also seen a rise in cases of dengue, and the government has taken steps to reduce the spread of the disease, but tourists should also take their own precautions.

Here's what you should know about dengue and how to avoid this illness if you're traveling to Mexico.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is a flu-like illness which is caused by being bitten by an infected mosquito. There are four different but related dengue viruses, and they are most commonly spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito (and rarely the Aedes albopictus mosquito), which is found in tropical and subtropical regions.

Symptoms of Dengue:

Symptoms of dengue range from a mild fever to incapacitating high fever accompanied by the following:

  • Severe headache, muscle and joint pain
  • Rash
  • Gastrointestinal problems

The symptoms of dengue may appear from any time between three days and two weeks from being infected. If you become ill after returning from a trip, be sure to tell your doctor where you were traveling.

Dengue Fever Treatment

Dengue fever is treated with rest, and acetaminophen to bring down the fever.

It is recommended to take in plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Usually symptoms clear up in about two weeks but some people may feel tired and sluggish for several weeks.

Other mosquito-borne illnesses

Dengue bears some similarities with Zika and Chikungunya. The symptoms can be similar, and all three are spread by mosquitoes.

The high fever present in dengue sufferers is a main difference. These three illnesses are treated in the same way, with bed rest and medication to bring down fever and ease pain, but there are as yet no specific drugs which target them. 

How to Avoid Dengue Fever

There is no vaccine against dengue fever. The illness is avoided by taking preventive measures to avoid insect bites. Mosquito netting and screens on windows are crucial for this, and if you are outdoors in an area with mosquitoes, you should wear clothing that covers your skin and apply insect repellent. Compounds containing DEET (at least 20%) are best, and it's important to reapply the repellent periodically if you are sweating. Compare prices for insect repellent.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is a more severe form of dengue. Persons who have been infected with one or more forms of dengue virus are at greater risk for this more severe form of the disease.