Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on December 01, 2011

Sources

Caribbean Trade Association Tourism Updates, May 30, 2006. "Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever: Information for Health Care Providers,'" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dengue Branch, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

© 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

WebMD Archive

Video Transcript

Narrator: The Caribbean Trade Association says over 22 million of us vacationed in their sunny islands in 2005…spending at least 23 billion dollars…

: $10 you can drink all day….

Narrator: If we worried at all, it was probably about drinking too much…avoiding sunburn…or losing that bikini figure to all those midnight snacks on the cruise ship…. After all, why would one think about dangerous diseases in this beautiful countryside?

Bruni Nazario, MD: My blood pressure was skyrocketing, my pulse was really down, and I got up from where I was sitting and ran to the bathroom and started to heave nothing came up because I hadn't eatin anything and we were ready to call 911, it was very severe….

Narrator: WebMD Senior Medical Editor Bruni Nazario is describing her bout with dengue fever, which the CDC calls the "most important mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans" today. She contracted the illness after being bitten by a mosquito during a visit to her parents in Puerto Rico.

Bruni Nazario, MD: It hit me suddenly. I was at work and I started developing sudden chills and severe bone aches in my low back, legs and knees. I was exhausted by the time I got home, I was ready to faint and was lying in a cot in my bedroom and was there for the next 3-4 days ..with my work clothes..and I hadn't gotten up out of bed to eat or drink…

Chely: It was really scary…

Narrator: Even scarier…huge bruises and spontaneous bleeding, which meant she had the more severe, potentially deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever. Especially deadly if she were to be bitten again with a similar strain of the virus.

Bruni Nazario, MD: Once you have dengue it almost changes your immune system and you're MORE susceptible to the disease, so unlike other illnesses where you develop it and you're prepared to fight it, dengue's a little different.

Narrator: According to the CDC, an estimated 2.5 billion people live in areas at risk for epidemics of dengue fever. In fact, Puerto Rico was in the middle of an epidemic when Dr. Nazario visited a few months ago…one she knew nothing about…

Bruni Nazario, MD: While I was there and reading papers and there were no warnings so I don't think there was enough public awareness that an epidemic going on….

Narrator: The CDC says effective mosquito control is "virtually nonexistent in most dengue-epidemic countries". Combine that with the rise in cruise ship and airline travel and you have what the CDC calls "a global public health problem. Dr. Nazario and her family now know to check the CDC Infectious Disease website when planning a vacation…. and that anyone traveling to areas of dengue activity should be prepared to take precautions: long sleeves, long pants and plenty of DEET a mosquito repellant.

Bruni Nazario, MD: Now I'm frightened. Now I look at where we are going to vacation. Are there any mosquitoes there?

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte