Avoid Mosquito Bites in the American Tropics
Heading to the American Tropics for Spring Break? Don’t let mosquitoes and the diseases they carry ruin your vacation.
Spring break is here! Airplanes and cruise ships are crisscrossing the seas throughout the American Tropics, transporting people for fun in the sun. If you are planning a trip, do your homework before traveling! Learn how to keep yourself and your family healthy during and after your trip. Two mosquito-borne infections, chikungunya and dengue, are common throughout the American Tropics. Getting infected with either the chikungunya or dengue virus can cause severe and incapacitating disease lasting weeks or longer. The best way to prevent getting sick is to avoid mosquito bites.
What is chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a virus spread through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya. Most people feel better within a week. In some people, joint pain can last for weeks to months. See the latest information on where chikungunya is found.
What is dengue?
Dengue is another common viral infection found throughout the American Tropics and spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms of dengue begin with high fever, and may also include severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed; unusual bruising). Dengue can become a serious, sometimes fatal infection, requiring hospitalization. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat dengue. See where dengue is found.
Before your trip
Make a list. Check it twice. Use the following resources to help you prepare for your trip:
- See a health care provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally four to six weeks before your trip. Need help finding a clinic? Go to the Find a Clinicwebpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
- Learn about country-specific health risks and recommendations by visiting CDC Travelers' Health website.
- Pack a travel health kit. Remember to pack insect repellent.
- Learn how to prepare for a healthy trip by visiting Your Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel.
Stay healthy during your trip
The mosquitoes that spread the chikungunya and dengue viruses are aggressive daytime biters. The best way to prevent getting sick is to avoid mosquito bites. Here's how:
- Wear insect repellent every time you go outside.
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (para-menthane-diol) provide long-lasting protection.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, then apply insect repellent.
After your trip
Once infected through a mosquito bite, it can take up to two weeks to get sick with chikungunya and dengue. During the first week of infection, the chikungunya or dengue virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.To prevent further spread of the virus[683 KB] , it is important to avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
Could it be chikungunya? Watch for the following symptoms:
- The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain.
- Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
- Infection with chikungunya is rarely fatal, but the joint pain can often be severe and debilitating.
- Most patients recover in about a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months.
- For more information, visit the Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment webpage.
Could it be dengue? Watch for the following symptoms:
- Dengue symptoms typically begin with high fever, and may also include severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed; unusual bruising).
- Since there are four separate dengue viruses, people can get infected with dengue up to four times in a lifetime.
- Severe dengue is a medical emergency, requiring hospital care.
- For more information on dengue, visit Dengue FAQ.
Sick with a fever and joint, muscle or bone aches, or rash after traveling? Visit your doctor right away.
If you develop a fever with muscle, joint or bone pain, rash or unexplained bruising, take acetaminophen for pain relief. Do not take aspirin. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and see a health care provider.
Tell your health care provider where you recently traveled. Your doctor will likely order a blood test to look for chikungunya, dengue, or other similar diseases.
For more information, visit: Getting Sick after Travel