The Tropics: Insect Paradise

March 16th, 2009

In Quebec, being bitten by mosquitoes is a common, seldom dangerous occurrence. You should nonetheless be aware that when you are travelling abroad, mosquitoes which may appear harmless often carry serious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. Here are a few tips to protect you from mosquito bites.

  • Do not wear fragrances.
  • Apply an insect repellent which contains 20 to 30% DEET on exposed skin surface (i.e. OFF, Muskol, Watkins). Protection normally lasts four to six hours.
  • Wear light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Spray an insect repellent on your clothing if possible (i.e. permethrin, deltamethrin)
  • Use mosquito netting and treat it with permethrin or deltamethrin or sleep in an air-conditioned room with mosquito screens covering the windows.

Dengue fever is a viral illness transmitted by infective Aedes mosquitos which bite during the day, particularly in urban areas. Common manifestations of dengue include sudden fever, musculoskeletal pain and skin eruptions. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever. The most effective way to prevent dengue fever is to avoid mosquito bites.

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites. It is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes which normally bite from sunset to sunrise. The most common manifestations of malaria are fever and flu-like symptoms. Malaria can be prevented by taking prophylactic drugs. Malaria can be treated if you consult rapidly at an appropriate facility.

Any occurrence of fever during or within the months following your trip to an area in which there is a risk of contracting the disease should be considered a potential case of malaria until proven otherwise, regardless of whether you have taken anti-malarial or not. In case of fever, consult a physician as soon as possible.


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