It is the end of the pandemic. You’re traveling to Costa Rica with your family on vacation. After all the restrictions and social distancing measures you’ve had to adhere to for an entire year, you’re finally ready to let loose and immerse yourself in the liberating tropical setting of Costa Rica’s rainforests.
You’re itching to do this but you also have in the back of your mind the stories of vacationers getting seriously sick or dying in this Central American country due to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika, and more. So, how bad is the mosquito problem really in Costa Rica? This is what we look to answer in this guide on mosquitoes in Costa Rica.
So How Bad Are Mosquitoes in Costa Rica?
While Costa Rica has some incredible biodiversity, not all the inhabitants in its rainforests are deserving of a postcard. In reality, many are feared, like the mosquito, as they are able to transmit diseases such as Chikungunya, dengue, and Zika.
Although these diseases are a major issue in Costa Rica, a little bit of awareness can go a long way in avoiding them. Here, we will look at the most common mosquito-borne illnesses in Costa Rica, their symptoms, and how to treat them. This way you will not only know how bad the mosquito problem is in Costa Rica but you will also discover ways to overcome it.
The Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Cost Rica, Their Symptoms, and Prevention
As a tourist in the country, you should be aware that the government of Costa Rica takes mosquito-borne diseases extremely seriously and is always looking to slow the transmission of such diseases. This should give you some level of confidence that you’re not on your own when it comes to protecting yourself against mosquito-borne diseases in Costa Rica.
However, you can increase your protection against these diseases further by having knowledge about the illnesses borne by mosquitoes in Costa Rica, how you can identify them, and the ways to treat them. Let’s begin.
The Zika Virus
A mosquito-borne disease that has recently become a cause of fear in Costa Rica and across Latin America is the Zika virus. In 2016, a few hundred cases were reported in Costa Rica. However, the numbers continuously declined, and the virus outbreak that was all over the news back then never really got off the ground and we are thankful for that. But this does not mean that you should let down your guard when it comes to ensuring protection against the Zika virus in Costa Rica.
Although Zika has fairly benign effects, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) believes that there is a great risk is for pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant in the near future. From what has been observed in neighboring Central American countries, the prevalence of birth defect microcephalus in children born to mothers diagnosed with Zika is worrying, to say the least.
This is why the CDC suggests that these women contact their doctor or delay their holiday plans to countries affected by the disease. Besides being carried by mosquitoes, Zika can spread from an infected person to another through sexual contact. The following are the symptoms of Zika virus to look out for and the possible treatments for the disease.
Most people who have the Zika virus show no signs of it. You may be living with the virus but not know about it. However, there are some mild symptoms of the disease that you can look out for to identify or negate its presence in you. These symptoms include joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache, fever, muscle pain, and rash.
Unfortunately, the Zika virus does not have any treatment. However, this does not mean that you cannot overcome it. You most certainly can; you just need to get the right amount of rest and hydration to recover from the illness.
Before you travel to Costa Rica, make sure to pack dengue-carrying mosquito repellants in your luggage. This is because dengue fever is the most prevalent mosquito-borne illness in Costa Rica. If you’re not careful, you can easily contract dengue during your vacation in the country. Dengue fever can cause many health complications including high fever, rashes, severe headaches, and even death in some rare cases.
This is not to scare you; it is just to make you cautious about the dangers that exist in Costa Rica that you want to be wary of for both your health and the health of your family. Although the number of deaths in Costa Rica from dengue has been low—7 since 2010—the cases reported each year are in the thousands. This includes both the people living in the country and those visiting it for a holiday, work, etc.
If you don’t want to become infected with dengue fever in Costa Rica, you will need to take some precautions both before and during your vacation in the country. These include sleeping with mosquito netting in your bed in Costa Rica, packing high-quality mosquito repellants in your luggage to use during your vacation, and wearing long-sleeve pants and tee-shirts when venturing out.
Despite your best efforts to avoid it, you may end up with dengue fever during your vacation in Costa Rica. So, how can you be sure that you have dengue and not another illness? You can ensure this by looking for the following symptoms:
- A skin rash
- High fever
- Joint pain
- Severe headaches
- Severe eye pain
- Muscle pain
- Mild bleeding
If you notice two or more of these symptoms in you, then it’s best to visit the nearest doctor to confirm or negate the presence of dengue in you. If you are diagnosed with the disease, then you may want to get treated for it.
Like the Zika virus, dengue fever does not have any treatment. However, just like in the case of the Zika virus, you can overcome the dengue fever with proper rest and by drinking plenty of water and other fluids. Many Dengue cases result in supervised hospitalization. This disease will kill you so if you have any symptoms, immediately head to the nearest hospital or medical facility.
The third and final mosquito-borne illness that you need to be wary of during your vacation in Costa Rica is chikungunya. This disease is less threatening than the Zika virus and dengue. Additionally, it is a new occurrence in Costa Rica as it has only emerged in the country in the last few years.
Compared to the other two mosquito-borne illnesses with thousands of reported cases in Cost Rica each year, chikungunya cases are less than 250 on average in the country. Doesn’t sound like something you should be concerned about, right? However, it is best that you take precautions against this disease because you may get unlucky and contract chikungunya during your vacation in Costa Rica.
The pain associated with this disease can be debilitating, so you are advised to do all you can to avoid it. However, you’d still want to know the symptoms associated with this disease so that you can get treatment for chikungunya before things start to get complicated.
The following are the most common symptoms of chikungunya that you need to look out for:
- A rash
- A sudden fever
- Joint swelling
- Joint pain
If you notice the symptoms of chikungunya, then visit the nearest doctor for diagnosis and treatment. However, if no doctor is available near you, then get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take Tylenol or Paracetamol to overcome chikungunya.
In this article, we discussed the severity of the mosquito-borne illnesses in Cost Rica. We looked at the most common mosquito-borne illnesses in the country, their symptoms, and the treatment for them. We also detailed the ways in which each of the mosquito-borne illnesses listed in this guide can be avoided.
By using the information provided above, you can not only identify the presence of the above-mentioned mosquito-borne illnesses in you, but you can also avoid them during your vacation in Costa Rica as well as treat the diseases in case you get unlucky and contract them.
How Do I Protect Myself from Mosquito-Borne Illnesses in Cost Rica?
We have already identified some ways by which you can avoid mosquito-borne illnesses in Costa Rica. However, you can do the following things to increase your protection further:
- Avoid Venturing Out During the Night into the Rainforests
- Cover Yourself Up
- Look for Recommendations on the CDC Website
- Pack All the Anti-Mosquito You Will Need in Your Luggage